U.S. dominates Czech Republic and Canada survives Latvia to set up Olympic semis clash in Sochi

U.S. dominates Czech Republic and Canada survives Latvia to set up Olympic semis clash in Sochi

It’s the one Olympic matchup every American hockey fan has wanted for almost four years now and, by virtue of Wednesday’s respective results in Sochi, it’s less than 48 hours away.

The United States whitewashed Jake Voracek, Jaromir Jagr and the rest of the Czech Republic, 5-2, and Canada hung on for a 2-1 over Latvia (!) to set up a titanic rematch of the 2010 gold medal game in Vancouver that could be louder than that THUNDER SNOW that shook your house Wednesday morning.

The U.S. got a quick jump on the Czechs when James van Riemsdyk -- who was traded for Luke Schenn, who is not an Olympian -- beat netminder Ondrej Pavelec from a terrible angle just under two minutes into the game.

The Czechs tied it up shortly thereafter but the Americans regained the lead when David Backes slid a beautiful cross-ice pass to Dustin Brown, who jammed it home. Backes then scored from an impossible angle with just 1.8 seconds left in the first period for a 3-1 lead and the backbreaker.

Zach Parise ended Pavelec’s day with another goal from a miserable angle to make 4-1 early in the second period and that was all she wrote. Phil Kessel scored in third and the Czechs added a garbage-time goal before the buzzer sounded but the Americans already had their tickets punched to the semis.

Jonathan Quick made 21 saves for the U.S. in the victory.

The Canada/Lativa game was a whole different monster for a variety of reasons but mostly because of the Canadians’ inability to put the Latvians away.

Patrick Sharp scored early to put Canada on top 1-0. But the Latvians quickly answered with a breakaway goal to knot things up.

That’s when Latvian goalie Kristers Gudlevskis – don’t even ask for a proper pronunciation of that mouthful – took over and stole the show.

Gudlevskis was superb in making 55 - count ‘em - 55 saves for his team, which was outshot 57-16 in the game. He had almost every answer.

The key word there was almost because defenseman Shea Weber – who has found his way into every Flyers fan’s dreams for years now – blasted home a power-play goal from the point for the game-winning tally late in the third period

After Canada’s close call, here we are with the mother of all rematches and a trip to the gold medal game on the line.

So then, who has the edge?

A glance at the rosters seems to show the Americans have better goaltending, the Canadians have better defensemen and the respective groups of forwards are a toss-up.

That’s why they play the games, though.

Canada has scored 13 goals through four games in the tournament so far. That’s good for 3.25 goals per game. But that’s very misleading for a few reasons.

Canada’s six-goal performance against lowly Austria was the only time it scored more than three goals in a game. Also, Canada’s forwards have grossly underperformed. Forwards have scored just six of Canada’s 13 goals, and four of those six goals came against the overmatched Austrians.

In fact, Weber and fellow defenseman Drew Doughty have combined for the other seven goals.

All that against defenses like Norway, Austria and Latvia that have played much worse than the Americans’ defense.

On the other hand, the Americans are averaging five goals per game and their lowest goal output so far was three when they met the Russians in that instant classic this past Saturday.

With five goals, Kessel himself has nearly as many goals as all Canadian forwards.

The mostly young U.S. defense has impressed as well. That corps has let up just six goals in four games. Of course it helps having Quick and Ryan Miller between the pipes, but still quite the feat. Just look at the way guys like Ryan McDonough and Cam Fowler played against the uber-talented (and disappointing) Russians. They smothered the skilled Russians into submission.

So, I’m giving the edge to the Americans due to offensive balance, better performances against more skilled teams than Canada has faced and because they are playing a better overall team game right now.

But don’t get it wrong. Canada is still incredibly dangerous

Oh, baby. It’s on.

Get ready, Canada. We’re coming for you.

And, in the spirit of a totally unbiased journalist, go ‘Merica.

Michal Neuvirth mum on reports of new contract talks with Flyers

Michal Neuvirth mum on reports of new contract talks with Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. -- As the Flyers try to re-sign goalie Michal Neuvirth on trade deadline day (see report here ), the 28-year-old Czech was both nervous and cautious in talking to the media after Wednesday's practice.

Do you expect to get a deal done?

"I don't know, I don't know," Neuvirth said. "You got to talk to Hexy about that."

Hoping it gets done?

"We'll see."

Neuvirth said he lets his agent, Patrik Stefan, handle everything.

He said he speaks to him every day but would not elaborate on what was said either last night or today. Neuvirth seemed genuinely fearful of saying anything that would upset Flyers general manager Ron Hextall.

He did say he wants to remain a Flyer.

"Yeah, it's a great group of guys here and I love the city and the organization," Neuvirth said. "I'm gonna try whatever I can to be here."

Asked about the negotiations, Neuvirth said, "I don't know if I can say anything, you have to talk to Hexy about contracts. For me, I am here to stop pucks."

Asked whether Stefan needed assurances that if he were to be re-signed Wednesday, he would not be traded this afternoon to another club before the 3 p.m. deadline, Neuvirth replied, "I have no idea.

"What can I tell you guys? Sorry. I don't want to get in trouble. I don't know what I can say and can't say, so I say nothing."

Q & A with ABC 7 Chicago anchor Dionne Miller

Q & A with ABC 7 Chicago anchor Dionne Miller

Q: What experience has had the biggest impact on your life and career in sports and why?
A:
It’s hard to point to just one experience, I mean I have loved sports for as long as I can remember. Honestly, I cried when John Elway led “The Drive” to beat my Browns! Actual tears!! That was the moment I knew sports meant more to me than just entertainment. As I got older, I realized sports is just like real life… sometimes we succeed, sometimes we fail, but the next day, the next play we all try our best to be a little bit better. This is why I love sports!!

But my plan was never broadcasting. My plan was teaching- English Lit- to high school kids. I think I watched Dead Poets Society a dozen too many times and wanted to see kids standing on desks citing poetry. Clearly, I took a detour! It was actually thru some pretty big real-life struggles in college, and taking a semester off -- that I realized how much I wanted to be a writer --not creative writing but a journalist! I attended a small private liberal arts school that had no professional writing program to speak of, so they sort of created curriculum for me -- what a gift!

On my way to becoming a magazine columnist, I had to fulfill a communications requirement. On a whim, I signed up for TV Broadcasting. One of my first assignments was to report from a “fire” for our faux news cast. I prepared, researched, took my place in front of the “fire” back drop, and the red light went on. Game. Changer. I have no clue what I said, but I remember what I was wearing when I realized what I wanted to do with my life. I left the class, called my parents and immediately added a minor in communications. Though it honestly never crossed my mind to do news. I was already talking about sports, and binge watching ESPN. Sports just made sense. 

Q: Who’s had the biggest impact and why ?  
A:
Because I didn’t attend a journalism school, I graduated knowing precious little about this job I wanted so badly. I was advised to pursue an internship, which I did at WWSB ABC7 in my hometown of Sarasota, Fla. I walked in the first day, wide-eyed and so eager to learn all I could. I had the best teacher in Kevin Neghandi. Kevin was the weekend sports anchor at the time and honestly taught me everything. Everything. 

Shawn McClintock (VP Root Sports Pittsburgh). I met Shawn when I took it upon myself to show up in his news room and interview for a position I wanted. He didn’t hire me, told me to accept a job offer I had in San Diego (which I did) and then told me to keep in touch. Less than a year later, I was let go from my job in California. I had never dreamed I would be fired. Let alone for no other reason than new management wanted someone else. I called Shawn. He not only encouraged me through that time, but led me to the two jobs that would change my life forever.  

He told me he had a college friend who was at a start-up station in Columbus, Ohio and they were looking for a female anchor. Shawn also said he wanted to send my reel to Fox Sports Ohio as he was good friends with the bosses there. Well, that “college friend” not only helped get me hired in Columbus, he became my husband. And after the station we met at folded, Fox Sports Ohio hired me. That job with FSO led me to Big Ten Network, which led me to Chicago and here we are. 

Q: What are some of the funniest moments you’ve experienced as a woman in sports?
A:
When I was hired at FOX 32 in Chicago, they sent a station-wide email welcoming “ Dionne Miller to the Sports Department”… I was told later they all thought I was an African- American man. This cracks me up. 

Q: What was the most negative moment you’ve experienced? The one that got you fired up or perhaps made you think about quitting?
A:
Losing my job sucked! I pride myself on being a team player, I work my butt off, & I did everything I was asked to do and then some. But it wasn’t enough. Still makes me mad! I see now what a gift it was that this happened. I had so many more blessings as a result. And I can truly say it NEVER made me want to quit. It only drove me to push harder. 

And as a woman in sports, I already know I HAVE to push harder. I have to know more, I have to research more, I have to work harder. I can’t make as many mistakes. I am fully aware of this fact and it’s a drag sometimes. But it will never make me want to quit. I know what I signed up for. I pray that one day there is more equality in sports broadcasting -- especially when it comes to pay. But no job is perfect. And I love mine! 

Q: Have you had any teachable moments?  I.e. someone made an ignorant comment, but had no idea you were offended until you said something?
A:
I remember one of my first college football experiences, I interviewed the coach at Montana State University. I asked a question about his failing secondary and he basically answered me like I didn’t know that his team played football. It stuck with me. Especially because the next question came from a male reporter who asked virtually the same thing and got a specific football answer. Annoying. 

Q: Any awkward moments?   
A:
Let’s face it, every time I march into a locker room, it’s awkward.  It just is. Athletes have gotten comfortable with it, and truthfully so have I. We all understand I am there to do a job, but it took some getting used to. I always wonder how I would feel if men came into my bathroom while I’m trying to get dressed or undressed. AWKWARD! But show respect, get respect. That’s kind of how approach it. 

Q: What are you most proud of?
A:
I’m a mom of little people… sometimes I’m most proud that I am awake for work at 10pm, and dressed! Kidding aside I am most proud to be a working wife and mom in a city I can’t believe I get to call home, at a station that gives me the opportunity to do so many amazing things, and continue to sharpen my skills. Six months into my first job in Billings, Montana, I was filming a HS Football game for work. Got tackled and broke my leg in 3 places. Never once during months off the air, rehab and being thousands of miles from home, did I consider quitting. Not once. I am so proud of where I am and my journey to get here. Because it’s MY story. I can’t wait to see what happens next! 

Q: Many girls look up to you. Any advice for those that want to get into sports media? 
A:
 First: NO JOB IS BENEATH YOU! I feel like I need to shout this at young girls wanting to get into the business. Try everything, trust your talents and dive in. If someone offers you an opportunity you think isn’t “ideal”, remember that it could open a door you never imagined if you just go for it. Trust me, you will not be stuck in “Montana." Nothing will last forever and you will not die.

Also, understand what the landscape of the business is. Yes, we will always be outnumbered. Yes we will be judged by our dress, hair, and make up before anyone actually hears the words we say. None of this is a surprise. I’m not saying just accept ignorance. Not at all. But to act like this isn’t happening is ridiculous. It is. And its not just in TV. It happens in every job. 

BE KIND! To your co-workers, your competition and yourself! First of all, you need absolutely everyone in the building you work in to make you look good on the air. DO not take this for granted. Be kind to your competition -- especially other women. Yes, work hard to get your story correct and the best it can be. But do not tear down others on the way. This business is small. Everyone knows everyone. A bad reputation will ruin a stellar resume and incredible on-air talent. Male or female. 

And be kind to yourself. You will make mistakes. You will. I do. It’s ok. It will always be ok. Nothing is ever as bad as you think or as good. Stay humble, but don’t beat yourself up. If you make a mistake, or miss a story, learn, make a change and know you’ll do better next time… there is always another show coming. 

Q: How has social media changed how easily fans can reach out to you? Do you let it bother you?
A:
I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I love it for keeping me connected with what’s going on all over the sports world. But I hate that if I have one slip up on the air, I get immediate comment on twitter. Or if I show personality and it rubs someone the wrong way, I get an email attack. It’s the worst when someone attacks my clothes and hair… um, did you even hear what I said? Yes.. It sucks. And honestly, sometimes it does bother me. But I am working towards letting that stuff go. I have to remind myself that the people who use social media to attack me, don’t know me. I know the men I work with get comments too, so I never feel singled out. I just wish people would pause before they lash out. Social media gives us no reason to filter. People are mean. But we can rise above.