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It was a familiar story for the St. Mary’s University Lightning Women’s basketball team on the second day of action at the CCAA national championships, who fell to the Mount St. Vincent Mystics by a final story of 83-66.
The Lightning women started the game at a blistering pace and jumped to an early 13-2 lead in the early minutes of the first quarter forcing the Mystics to take an early timeout. This calculated break seemingly shifted the tide in favour of the Mystics who finished the first quarter on a 19-10 run.
The momentum continued in the second quarter and eventually cost the women from St. Mary’s the lead.
“The mental mistakes and missed opportunities really hurt us,” said St. Mary’s University athletic manager Nathan Ruff. “We missed some great chances and easy scoring opportunities in the second quarter, and eventually, the Mystics started to take over.
Mount St. Vincent continued to pull away from the Lightning in the second half thanks to stout defensive pressure and anchored by a strong shooting performance from Marika Williams – who went 5-for-7 from the three-point line and ended the night with 24 points.
Megan Trisevic led the way for the Lightning, scoring 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting while adding six rebounds.
It wasn’t meant to be for the Lightning who failed to capitalize on early chances which head coach Steve Shoults believes cost the Lightning the game.
“It’s the details we have been discussing all year long that ultimately cost us the game,” said Shoults. “We knew on the national stage if we don’t capitalize on our opportunities and take care of the details of the game — we would not win.”
The Lightning will close out the tournament against their rivals from the ACAC, the Medicine Hat Rattlers, on Sunday at 11 a.m.
For the bulk of his first 49 outings this season, Mike Smith has done wonders to mask the Flames problems.
On Friday night, he was the problem.
Well … a big part of it anyway.
One game after pitching a brilliant shutout against the Edmonton Oilers, Smith allowed six goals on 20 San Jose Sharks shots, ending his night just one minute into the third period.
On three of his 14 saves, he found himself fighting the puck tremendously as part of a nightmarish outing coming at the most inopportune of times.
“Terrible,” spat Smith when asked to assess the crippling 7-4 loss.
“It was one of those nights where pucks were hitting things and going in. Couple bad breaks there. Definitely an off-night and tough one to swallow.”
The team’s 35-year-old MVP had little else to say.
Unlike after the team’s last loss at home — Sunday against the New York Islanders — Smith wasn’t interested in expanding on his obvious frustration.
What more could really be said following the most devastating loss in a recent series of playoff-limiting setbacks?
Predictably, the lads who did speak defended their netminder, who most certainly deserves some slack after the season he’s put forth.
“It wasn’t just one guy,” said Flames captain Mark Giordano.
“You can’t just rely on your goalie to bail you out every time,” added teammate Matt Stajan.
“He did that last game. Some of their goals were flukey – tips from far out, but we’ve got to do a better job defending. We’re giving guys second chances and turning pucks over in our end. This time of year, those are the goals that are going to go in your net.”
The loss essentially puts the Sharks out of the Flames’ reach in the race for the final few playoff spots in the NHL’s Western Conference, as they now sit seven points up.
With 10 games left on the regular-season schedule, the Flames can only afford to lose two more, which could come as early as Sunday in Vegas and Monday in Phoenix.
The damage started with a 30-foot wrister from Evander Kane that dipped a foot under Smith’s glove after careening off Dougie Hamilton’s stick.
Awkward, weak and a potential back-breaker.
Yet the team battled well.
His night ended 41 minutes later, when Kane banged in his fourth of the night on a rebound to make the score 6-3 in a game led midway through the evening by the Flames 3-2.
The goal that tied the game 3-3 was the biggest indication Smith was off as rookie Kevin Labanc sent a wrister from beyond the faceoff dot over Smith’s shoulder, prompting a collective groan from Dome dwellers.
It was then the Flames missed a golden opportunity by squandering a 44-second 5-on-3 power-play that the Sharks killed off before scoring twice more in the second for a 5-3 lead.
The fourth goal saw Kane put in his own rebound before Tomas Hertl jammed in the fifth goal 90 seconds later to punctuate the second period.
Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan contemplated pulling Smith during the intermission but after reviewing the goals felt he was “still feeling it.”
By no means was it all Smith’s fault.
Shoddy net-front coverage led to several goals as well.
However, Smith knows he has to be better this time of year or the Flames will roll over soon, exiting the playoff dogfight.
It was the Flames 10th loss in their last 13 home dates, dropping their disastrous Dome mark to 15-17-4 – fourth-worst in the NHL.
The loss wasted a shocking two-goal effort from the Flames’ anemic bottom six, which included snipes from recent scratch Mark Jankowski and Troy Brouwer.
It also wasted the opportunity to take advantage of a loss by the Colorado Avalanche and an overtime setback suffered by the Dallas Stars.
David Rittich made seven saves in mop-up duty for Smith, preparing for an inevitable start in either the Vegas Golden Knights or against the Arizona Coyotes.
Unfortunately, Friday’s 7-4 loss to the San Jose Sharks wasn’t one of them.
The 35-year-old netminder struggled early, allowing five goals on 18 shots including four goals from Evander Kane, who recorded his first hat-trick in his NHL career.
It’s tough to hang an entire result on a goaltender — especially because there were defensive breakdowns on a few instance.
But at this point in the season with 10 games remaining and, after Friday’s loss, sitting four points out of a Western Conference wild-card playoff spot with a 35-27-10 record, Smith needed to be lights-out.
He was well aware.
“Terrible,” was his short, heated post-game answer to the local media.
The Sharks chased him after scoring six goals on 20 shots, the dagger coming at just 1:02 of the third period causing the Flames to parachute David Rittich in for mop-up duty.
While Flames winger Micheal Ferland managed to make the score appear bearable, scoring on a rebound with 5:35 remaining to get them within two, it was too little too late.
And it just might be too little, too late, when it comes to any hopes of springtime hockey.
Eric Fehr scored an empty-netter with 3:58 remaining, and it sent fans to the exits. The ones that stayed booed their team off the ice at the game’s end.
Through the first half, the Flames did attempt to keep up with the visitors particularly during the opening 10 minutes of the second period.
Johnny Gaudreau gave the Flames a one-goal lead, deking through at least four white-and-teal sweaters to go top-shelf on Sharks goalie Martin Jones.
Before that, the Flames got gritty goals from their fourth and third lines. Troy Brouwer connected on a one-timer with 3:18 remaining in the first, while Mark Jankowski made good off a pass from Garnet Hathaway, who picked up a loose puck along the boards after a puck battle between teammate Kris Versteeg and the Sharks’ Chris Tierney. Versteeg, by the way, was making his first appearance since his hip surgery kept him out of the lineup for 49 straight games.
But the Sharks, missing Joe Thornton and (after Wednesday’s shootout win over the host Edmonton Oilers Edmonton) Joonas Donskoi, continued to press.
And make plays.
After limiting the Sharks to one shot on net prior to a second-period powerplay to Brett Kulak, the Flames were passengers as the Sharks scored four straight goals.
Following Gaudreau’s 23rd goal of the year — and third goal in three straight games as he extended his six-game point spree — Kevin Labanc beat Smith on a glove-side wrister.
The Flames had a chance to break a 3-3 deadlock on a five-on-three man advantage for 44 seconds in the middle frame. But despite throwing four shots on Jones and the NHL’s top penalty kill during 3:16 of powerplay time, they couldn’t connect.
That deflated them.
“Smitty’s a pro,” said Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan of his goaltender. “He’s hard on himself. But we had some critical moments in the game. That five-on-three for 44 seconds, it’s a tight game and you need to generate more. A couple things we didn’t execute.”
Add Kane and Tomas Hertl goals in the final 3:28 of the second period and the Flames had an uphill battle to climb in the third.
Early on in the game, Smith allowed a softie from Kane just six minutes into the action after the reformed bad boy stepped into the blueline and let a wrister go. It may or may not have gone off Dougie Hamilton’s stick, but, regardless, it put the Sharks up 1-0 early into Friday’s clash.
Jones made some good saves including a reaching stick save on Sean Monahan, which, on the play immediately after, led to Kane’s game-tying marker — a floater from the point. The former Hitmen netminder also made a blocker save on Mikael Backlund later in the second period.
But the only detail that mattered was a frustrated and fuming Smith that sat on the end of the Flames bench for the third period.
“You know what? Some of their goals were breakdowns on our part,” Stajan said. “You can’t leave guys alone in front. Easy tips. Those are hard saves. Obviously, some that are tipped from far out, sometimes those go in. That’s just hockey. We have to do a better job of playing tight in our own end.
“I thought we were too loose.”
Friday was Smith’s third game back since missing 13 games with a lower body injury.
On Tuesday, he shut the door in a 1-0 win over the Oilers and posted a 28-save shutout.
On Sunday, against the New York Islanders, he allowed four goals on 26 shots.
“It’s not one guy, obviously,” said Flames captain Mark Giordano. “We gave them too many, I felt like, easy goals (Friday night). Just the little things again that come back to bite you. We’re giving them momentum with back-door tap-ins … pucks that should never be in our zone and are in our zone.
“That’s what it felt like.”
The Flames practice on Saturday before flying to Las Vegas, where they’ll try their luck again at T-Mobile Arena against the high-flying Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday.
Then, they’ll face the Arizona Coyotes on Monday in the second-half of a back-to-back roadie.
“We have 100 points left on the table,” Gulutzan said. “So until we run out of points, we’re going to play the next game.”
Calgary’s city hall says it has the financial backing of the provincial and federal governments as it pushes forward with a proposal to create a $30-million 2026 Winter Olympics bid corporation.
A report published online Friday indicated both senior governments have pledged $20.5 million toward the creation of the proposed BidCo, which would establish a budget for the Games and build a competitive bid for the International Olympic Committee, should the city opt to proceed.
However, both the mayor’s and the premier’s offices said late Friday that financing or support for a BidCo has not been finalized.
“Conversations continue with the other orders of government. We do not have formal confirmation of their financial participation in a BidCo,” said Daorcey Le Bray, communications adviser to Mayor Naheed Nenshi.
The proposed draft budget for BidCo includes $10.5 million from the federal government, $10 million from Alberta and $9.5 million from the city, totalling $30 million.
“Our discussions with the City of Calgary continue,” said Cheryl Oates, the premier’s spokeswoman. “We hope to be in a position to announce a decision on the BidCo soon.”
Earlier Friday, the mayor sounded optimistic when asked if the bid would receive backing from other governments.
“I think that there’s some i-dotting and some t-crossing going on, but it sounds like the parties are really all in a place together where they’d like to explore this further,” Nenshi said.
The city’s contribution includes money previously committed by council for the bid exploration process. Council already committed $6 million and authorized up to $1 million more, contingent upon funding from other governments.
City administration is now asking council to authorize a further $2.5 million — to be taken from a reserve fund — to complete the required $9.5 million.
Any funds beyond the $30 million required for the bid would be raised from the private sector, the report states.
The report also outlined a proposed 19-member board of directors to govern the BidCo, with representatives from all three levels of government, the Town of Canmore, the Canadian Olympic Committee, the Canadian Paralympic Committee and Indigenous communities.
Members of the proposed corporation have had initial meetings to discuss its governance, the city said.
“It is imperative to note that funding and incorporating a BidCo does not necessarily mean Calgary will formally bid for the 2026 (Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games) but is a necessary step should the three orders of government and stakeholders decide to bid on the OPWG,” states the report.
Coun. Sean Chu said he’s urging Calgarians to complain to their councillors, the mayor and other elected officials if they don’t want a bid to proceed.
“The cost overruns (for hosting the Games) are going to be incredible,” Chu said. “And who wants to pay? Raise your hand.”
The city conducted an online survey at the beginning of February of between 1,200 and 3,300 Calgarians; just over half said they were satisfied with the city’s communications about a potential bid.
Overwhelmingly, those surveyed said they needed information about the cost of a potential bid for the 2026 Winter Games.
A city committee is to decide Wednesday whether to approve the creation of the bid corporation, as well as authorize the $2.5 million required for Calgary’s portion of the bill.