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Why the Maple Leafs should bring in Matthew Knies soon

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A quick mix of the things we gleaned from the week of hockey, serious and less so, and rolling four lines deep. It’s been awkward writing for Sportsnet ever since my salary-dump trade to IrishDangles.com was reversed on a technicality.

1. Matthew Knies is the reason Josh Ho-Sang is not an NHLer.

Kyle Dubas thinks so highly of his two prized college prospects, Minnesota’s Knies and Harvard’s Nick Abruzzese, that he declined to promote any of his AHLers and save a couple roster slots for recent draft picks who have made noise south of the border.

With Dubas in the building, freshman Knies delivered a tour de force performance in the Gophers’ 4-3 comeback overtime win over Massachusetts Friday. A big momentum-shifting hit. A game-tying goal. And Minnesota advanced to Sunday’s Worcester Regional final in the NCAA tournament.

UMass coach Greg Carvel called Knies a “difference-maker” and compared his snipe to something from the Auston Matthews arsenal:

The word on Knies? He’s a can’t-miss prospect coming out of the USHL. 

On draft day, experts projected Knies to be a middle-six power forward. Soft hands. Protects the puck well. Drives to the slot. A knack for the finish.

“We wanted to make sure we have some potential space for them. We didn’t want to burn the slots on the AHL guys, unfortunately,” Dubas said Monday. “We just wanted to keep that option open. We don’t want to put pressure on either.”

Knies is only 19, however.

Despite the Phoenix native’s 29 points in 30 games for Minnesota this season, and despite his strong showing for Team USA at the false-start 2022 world juniors and Winter Olympic Games, the notion of Knies jumping from kids to a critical playoff battle is something.

That said, it’s almost a certainty that Dubas at least takes a peek at the future in the leadup to Game 1 and gauge if he’s an asset who could help in May or one that needs to simmer for the future.

Toronto’s second and fourth lines are far from perfect. A playoff spot is on lock. Why not see what you have in the system?

“No pressure from our end,” said Dubas, diplomatically.

Knies still needs an entry-level contract, however, and he could still play another year in college if he chooses.

The Leafs don’t want to put the screws to the player yet, knowing Knies could delay his signature and become a college free agent down the road.

But why on Earth would Knies not be interested in hitching on for one of the most compelling playoff rides?

2. Has so much excitement and intrigue and drama and turnover and controversy ever encircled one team through their first five years of existence as the Vegas Golden Knights?

Maybe the 2021-22 Knights are like the 2016-17 Tampa Bay Lightning — too snakebit to succeed.

Amidst a nine-year run of playoff appearances (and at least three Cup final appearances), Tampa missed the dance entirely that season.

Vegas is far and away the franchise most impacted by man-games lost to injury this season. And with the Evgenii Dadonov trade blowing up, it can’t squeeze Alec Martinez or Mark Stone into these meaningful games.

If these Knights go the way of the ’17 Bolts, does impatient owner Bill Foley shrug and say, “Ah, well. Not our year”? Or does he take a machete to the men under his employ?

3. Inside Bridgestone Arena last weekend, a spontaneous and thunderous “RE! SIGN! FORS! BERG!” chant erupted from the Nashville faithful.

As much as the long-term implications of the Tomas Hertl extension concern us, at least the Sharks made a decision.

Considering the prices rental players went for this week and the power imbalance in the West, how badly will it reflect on David Poile if the Predators are easy playoff fodder and lose Forsberg for nothing?

Something to watch.

Forsberg rates sixth overall in the goal-scoring race (36), is top-15 leaguewide in points per game (1.23) and is a plus-10. I get why you wouldn’t want to part with a franchise talent.

But ask the New York Islanders how it feels to walk someone of that calibre out the door for free.

4. The Maple Leafs’ special teams have been nothing short of incredible.

With two short-handed goals Wednesday in their victory over the New Jersey Devils, the Leafs lead the league with 10 shorties and minus-18 goal differential at 4-on-5.

Add that to the NHL’s most effective power play, and you have a plus-26 goal differential in odd-man situations, tops in hockey. (Next best are the Hurricanes at plus-22. The Blues, Flames, Penguins, Rangers and Avalanche also fare favourably here.)

In other words, Toronto — which added two solid special team players in Mark Giordano and Colin Blackwell — will just be hoping for whistles come playoff time.

5. Many fans questioned the waiver rule that permitted the Arizona Coyotes to scoop free-agent Harri Säteri from the Maple Leafs on deadline day.

Toronto had done the legwork of recruiting the goaltender and negotiating a contract. Säteri surely was intrigued by the opportunity of joining a contender and potentially playing his first NHL playoff game. Then along rolls Wild Bill Armstrong, who stashes him away to the regular-season desert.

Why NHL clubs must pass European free agent signings through the waiver system actually traces back to another Olympic medal–winning, frequent-flying Finn.

In 1986-87, offensive defenceman Reijo Ruotsalainen inked a deal SC Bern of the Swiss League, despite being so good he represented the New York Rangers at the ’86 all-star game.

Once Bern’s season had wrapped, Ruotsalainen (and his Paul Coffey–like stride) signed with the powerhouse Edmonton Oilers, put up eight points in 10 regular-season games down the stretch, then another 13 in Edmonton’s playoff run to the 1987 Stanley Cup.

Then bounced back to Europe to maintain his Olympic eligibility.

He earned the nickname “Rental Rexi.”

Ruotsalainen joined the Oilers again in late 1990, played meaningful minutes in the playoffs and won another ring. He then peaced out to Bern and never came back to North America.

Think of it: The rule-changing Ruotsalainen appeared in just 26 regular-season games for the Oilers but won two Cups with them.

The league believed a loophole had been exposed, and cinched that sucker shut — much to Dubas’s chagrin three decades later.

6. You must wonder what was running through Dubas’s mind watching brand-new Dallas Stars goalie Scott Wedgewood’s brilliant performance Thursday in Carolina.

One of the so-called lateral moves that could have altered the Maple Leafs crease, Wedgewood put on a show, recording a 44-save shootout victory for his new club despite getting outshot 47-15.

The 29-year-old Brampton, Ont., native turned away all three Canes shooters in the skills contest and finished with the most saves by any Stars goalie in a debut. Several were of the did-you-just-see-that? variety.

Wedgewood was a cheap rental. He went for a fourth-round pick in 2023. His cap hit is an manageable $825,000. (For those prone to snap reaction: Wedgewood could’ve been a Leaf.)

Won’t take many more wins like that for Jim Nill to feel like he got his money’s worth.

7. “They’re face-lickin’ good,” said March Munch Cinnamon Crunch spokesman Brad Marchand. “Can I say that?

“If I can’t, I’m sorry.”

Sorry not sorry.

Marchand inked a deal to promote his own breakfast cereal, a Cinnamon Toast Crunch knockoff that sells online at a price of $29.99 for two boxes.

Too steep? Well, the first batch of the sugary goods has already sold out, and the next round won’t be delivered for about a month.

A portion of the proceeds benefits Christopher’s Haven, which supports housing and recreation for families of children being treated for cancer in Boston hospitals.

Marchand’s partnership is with PLB Sports & Entertainment, the same engine behind Doug’s Flutie Flakes.

“Growing up, as a kid I would see different athletes with their own cereal,” Marchand said. “I just never thought it would be me one day. The fact that it is my favorite cereal makes this project event sweeter.”

8. Love that Darryl Sutter booted Calgary goalie coach Jason LaBarbera to deal with the post-game media after Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to San Jose.

Beat reporters typically hear from the head coach — and head coach only — after every practice, every morning skate, and every game.

Teams want one voice representing the whole so us nitpickers don’t pry for incongruencies. But it’s refreshing to hear from an assistant, and I’d love to see it become normal practice.

Plus, it gives the bench boss a break from the routine queries.

We suspect Leafs goalie coach Steve Briere might have some insight into the goings-on of Jack Campbell and Petr Mrazek the last few months.

9. Curious about some of the clubs who remained quiet at the trade deadline.

The Islanders, Red Wings and Sabres aren’t a Hail Mary pass from the playoff picture, yet they stood still while rental players were selling for juicy prices.

To be fair, Steve Yzerman didn’t have much to sell (Marc Staal, Sam Gagner, Thomas Greiss and Danny DeKeyser).

Buffalo had more to offer, but there is a distinct sense – during the longest playoff drought in NHL history — that this stretch, while meaningless in the standings, does mean something toward carrying momentum into 2022-23.

“This is a place where I want to be. I don’t want to keep moving around. I want to be somewhere that I love. And I love it here,” Vinnie Hinostroza told reporters.

That’s something.

Not only did Lou Lamoriello’s Islanders not sell, they extended Zach Parise and Cal Clutterbuck Monday — a pair of transactions that should be as surprising as any.

Sounds like Lamoriello is treating this season as an aberration and believes his veteran group will be right back in the mix next season. I’m less convinced.

10. Justin Holl is the real-life Bubble Boy.

Pucks, sticks, the Maple Leafs defenceman has taken so many hits to the face, he started to consider if he was doing something wrong.

Was he throwing his mug into vulnerable positions? Was there a way to limit the damage? Or was it simply bad luck?

The tip of Holl’s nose got in the way of a shot follow-through during the Heritage Classic and his whole bridge swelled up. He needed to see a specialist to determine if his nose was broken. Either way, he’s been playing with a full face shield. Something he’s done numerous times.

So often, he’s used to the fishbowl look.

“I don’t really notice it when I’m out there. I was telling the guys, the worst part is yelling and talking because it reverberates inside. But it’s not too bad, and it’ll be off soon,” Holl says.

“I don’t know what the deal is. Once a year I end up in the bubble, and somehow I get hit in the face. I try to think about, like, what am I doing wrong to put myself in these positions? I don’t know.”

As Holl explains, he speaks through missing a bottom tooth from his Marlies days. He spent some bubble time after that injury, too.

11. You can debate whether the Maple Leafs’ Justin Bieber–designed reversible sweaters looked good. (I’m partial to straight blue and white. Also, I’m old as hell and not the target demographic here.)

What you cannot debate is that the Martha Stewart–leaked Drew House collab was a hit.

The alternates quickly became the top-selling item on both the U.S. and Canadian version of the NHL’s online shop and a tough jersey to obtain.

“I am a Justin Bieber fan, yeah. The music gets played in my house. I like it myself. He’s an icon,” Jason Spezza says. “I think it’s cool that he actually follows the team and he’s into it.”

Adds Bieber’s buddy, Auston Matthews: “Just having him come down, meet a lot of the guys, share that experience was a lot of fun for everybody.”

A third partner, Tim Hortons, jumped into the fray and dropped limited-edition blue-and-yellow Next Gen Timbits.

Cross-marketing, folks. It works.

12. Quote of the Week goes to brand-new Florida Panther Claude Giroux, who considered the idea of playing with centre Aleksander Barkov: “It’ll be like the first day of school. I’ll just be giggling.”

In his 1,001st game — and first wearing something other than Philly orange and black — Giroux notched two assists.

Methinks he’ll fit in just fine.





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Chelsea 2-0 Manchester City: Fran Kirby and Maren Mjelde goals secure first points of WSL title defence

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Kirby struck the opener in the 42nd minute and Mjelde added a spot-kick with 12 minutes of normal time remaining as Emma Hayes’ side bounced back from the shock 2-1 loss at Liverpool in their campaign opener last Sunday.

Gareth Taylor’s City created a number of chances, particularly in the first half, which included a Laura Coombs shot that Ann-Katrin Berger did superbly to divert against a post, but they were unable to save themselves from another loss following last weekend’s 4-3 reverse at Aston Villa.

After Chelsea threatened in the first few seconds of the contest, with Sam Kerr shooting wide, City exerted the greater pressure for much of the opening 45 minutes.

Chloe Kelly saw an attempt held by Berger – back in action for the first time since last month confirming a recurrence of thyroid cancer – and Khadija Shaw sent two efforts over the bar.

Berger subsequently palmed behind when Lauren Hemp tried to beat her at the near post in the 35th minute, before dealing with a deflected effort by Deyna Castellanos.

It was Chelsea who then grabbed the lead late in the half as Guro Reiten knocked the ball across the box to Kirby and the England playmaker, with Lionesses boss Sarina Wiegman watching on from the stands, side-footed home.

Moments later Berger pulled off a fine stop as her leg sent Coombs’ shot against the post. And as City then pushed again early in the second half, Laia Aleixandri flicked wide from a corner and Coombs had another shot saved by Berger.

But the visitors struggled to create much thereafter, while Chelsea sought a second goal with Lauren James curling one shot wide and having another saved by Ellie Roebuck, and Kirby firing over.

Hayes’ team were then awarded a penalty when substitute Sophie Ingle’s strike hit the arm of Leila Ouahabi, and defender Mjelde calmly converted past Roebuck from 12 yards.

Additional reporting by PA.



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Super League Grand Final: St Helens’ Jonny Lomax comes back from the brink to write name in history | Rugby League News

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Marc Bazeley

@MarcBazeley

Jonny Lomax was awarded the Harry Sunderland Trophy for player of the match as St Helens clinched an historic fourth-straight Betfred Super League Grand Final triumph with a 24-12 win over Leeds Rhinos; The half-back had previously considered calling time on his playing days due to injury

Last Updated: 25/09/22 1:50pm

Jonny Lomax was awarded the Harry Sunderland Trophy for his part in helping St Helens to a fourth-straight Grand Final win

Jonny Lomax was awarded the Harry Sunderland Trophy for his part in helping St Helens to a fourth-straight Grand Final win

Seven years ago, Jonny Lomax was contemplating whether he would even play rugby league again. Now the St Helens half-back’s name is in the history books for his pivotal role in helping them to a previously unprecedented fourth-straight Betfred Super League Grand Final triumph.

Knee injuries and surgery which saw him restricted to 15 games in 2014 and only five at the start of the 2015 campaign had worn Lomax down to the extent he had told his father he was going to call time on his playing career as he could not see himself going through the long rehabilitation process again.

The support of his family and Saints team-mates helped get him through those tough times though, and now the 32-year-old is a four-time Grand Final winner and Harry Sunderland Trophy recipient for his starring role in Saturday’s 24-12 win over Leeds Rhinos at Old Trafford.

“If I do go back to 2014 and 2015 when I was going into my third ACL operation and the rest of it, I probably did think my career was done and I didn’t want to go through it all again,” Lomax said, reflecting on his personal journey in the wake of that success.

“Thankfully, I’ve got fantastic people around me at home and in my immediate family and the boys here.

“I’d decided in my head – probably purely on emotion because it was emotional at the time – that’s me, I’m done and can’t see a way back.

“There were a few things that happened speaking with my family that probably turned that around.”

Highlights of the Super League Grand Final between St Helens and Leeds Rhinos.

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Highlights of the Super League Grand Final between St Helens and Leeds Rhinos.

Highlights of the Super League Grand Final between St Helens and Leeds Rhinos.

Along with the members of the Rugby League Writers and Broadcasters Association who voted Lomax as winning of the player of the match award, one other person who was effusive in his praise of the England international was St Helens’ departing head coach Kristian Woof.

The Australian, who is now preparing to lead Tonga at the upcoming Rugby League World Cup before returning home for his new role with NRL expansion club Dolphins, went as far as put Lomax’s contributions to the team’s success during his three seasons in charge alongside those of the club’s inspirational captain James Roby.

“You talk about hard work, selfless acts and what you’re prepared to do for your team-mates and it’s not just about turning up for a Grand Final and doing that,” Woolf said.

“A Grand Final is a reflection of what you do all the time and Robes leads from the front and this team is a reflection of him as a person and in terms of his work ethic and who he is as a player.

The award is nice, but it’s that trophy we’ve lifted as a team is what it’s all about for me. I’d sacrifice anything individually to be a part of this team and come away with the silverware because of the principles we’re about.

Grand Final player of the match Jonny Lomax

“But I’d put Jonny in the same boat, and you talk about two blokes who lead a group in the right direction and in all those things.

“There are no two harder workers, better people or more honest people and they are the reason why there is so much success in this team.”

Lomax, in turn, was quick to highlight Woolf’s contribution to a team which were already Grand Final winners under his predecessor Justin Holbrook and have gone on to establish a level of dominance in Super League hitherto unseen since rugby league’s switch to a summer sport in 1996.

A large part of that, he believes, is down to the 47-year-old’s beliefs aligning with those of the players and St Helens itself – those working-class values which became entrenched on the back of town’s growth as the centre of the glassmaking industry.

Jonny Lomax’s 2022 Grand Final statistics

Try assists 1
Metres made 155
Average metres gained 6
Tackle busts 5
Attacking kicks 9

“The principles Kristian is about as a person tie in very well with us,” Lomax said. “It’s about hard work, being honest and keep trying to show up for your mate and that togetherness.

“Kristian has instilled that into us, and he’s definitely made us tougher as a team to beat. It’s not always a perfect game, but one thing he has made us do is compete hard and keep showing up for each other.

“It’s probably instilled into us as well because St Helens is a working-class town, it’s the principles it is built on and that’s what we want to put onto the field, and that’s something Kristian has been strong in his belief in.”

That attitude of teamwork making the dream work will undoubtedly continue whoever succeeds Woolf as head coach for 2023, when Saints will be aiming for a barely imaginable five Grand Final wins in a row.

Jonny Lomax was proud of his St Helens team after they claimed their fourth Grand Final in a row after victory over Leeds Rhinos.

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Jonny Lomax was proud of his St Helens team after they claimed their fourth Grand Final in a row after victory over Leeds Rhinos.

Jonny Lomax was proud of his St Helens team after they claimed their fourth Grand Final in a row after victory over Leeds Rhinos.

And while Lomax was proud to have been awarded the Harry Sunderland Trophy, becoming the 11th individual St Helens player to win it since it was first presented in 1965, he would gladly swap it for another Grand Final ring.

“The award is nice, but it’s that trophy we’ve lifted as a team is what it’s all about for me,” Lomax said.

“I’d sacrifice anything individually to be a part of this team and come away with the silverware because of the principles we’re about.

“For me, it’s more being proud of being part of this group and that’s the biggest thing I’ll take away.”





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D.J. Uiagalelei bailed out Clemson’s defense this time around

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D.J. Uiagalelei threw for 371 yards and five touchdowns in Clemson's 51-45 win over Wake Forest

D.J. Uiagalelei threw for 371 yards and 5 touchdowns against Wake Forest
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Clemson fans finally got the game from D.J. Uiagalelei that they’ve been waiting for, finishing with 371 yards passing and five touchdowns. You’d figure that kind of day would lead to a blowout of No. 21 Wake Forest with the defense we’re accustomed to seeing from the Tigers. After two overtimes and more than 1,000 yards of total offense, the perennial conference champions held off the reigning kings of the ACC, 51-45.

Demon Deacon QB Sam Hartman tallied six touchdown passes, repeatedly hitting receivers for big plays — or pass-interference flags — up until the second overtime when the hopes of an upset were dashed on a fourth down heave to the endzone. Tiger cornerback Nate Wiggins, who was getting targeted all day, made the game-sealing pass breakup, and Dabo Swinney’s team escaped Winston-Salem with its winning streak — now at 10 — still intact.

As comforting as Uiagalelei’s performance was, the defense is just as concerning. The defensive front was without one of its best players, so they’re not at full strength. Yet they’ve shown some hints the past couple of weeks that they might be missing coordinator Brent Venables, and now those signs are blinking bright red.

I liked Wake Forest’s chances in Saturday’s game, but my questions were more about the quarterback. Clemson has allowed more than 40 points only five times in the past five-plus years. Notre Dame, LSU, Ohio State, and Pitt were responsible for the previous four, and now Wake Forest is on that list.

Outside of a one-play possession that ran out the final 14 seconds of the first half, Wake scored on five-straight drives from the second quarter to the fourth. Dave Clawson’s insistence on the run during the Deacs’ final chance at a score in regulation — Clemson’s only stop of the second half — was a weird strategy considering how hot Hartman was.

Saying Dabo out-coached him might not be accurate either as his equally hot offense wasn’t even given a chance to get within field goal range with 49 seconds left to try to win the game sans OT, and Wake hemorrhaging yards. (He also ran his kicker out for a 52-yarder to tie the game with four minutes left in the game, and his trust was rewarded as B.T. Potter drilled the kick.)

The day belonged to Uiagalelei though. This was the exact type of command and playmaking Clemson fans have been waiting for out of him, and it came in a high-pressure situation. The 371 yards passing is the second highest output of his career, and his first game with 300-plus yards since Nov. 7, 2020. The five passing scores are a career-high by three TDs.

He made plenty of tough throws, but the hardest came on a two-point conversion in the third quarter to tie the contest at 28. Under pressure, with a Deacon holding his leg, he found receiver Beaux Collins despite only having one foot on the ground.

Even though Wake’s defense leaves a lot to be desired — the fangless three-man rushes allowed Uiagalelei enough time to write a memoir — this was as perfect of a game as a quarterback can play.

No. 12 NC State and QB Devin Leary visit Death Valley next week, and if the Wolfpack can get by UConn, College Gameday could find itself with another orange-heavy destination. The Clemson defense will have another veteran quarterback to contain, but that can be said of both teams.



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