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Mitch's Sports Report: Shiffrin In A Class By Herself; Bad Omens For U.S. And Russian Men's Hockey

The late, great Tom Petty said it best: The waiting is the hardest part. That was certainly the case for the woman who trained at Burke Mountain Academy and is now considered one of the greatest alpine skiers in history, Mikaela Shiffrin, who waited out two postponements due to high winds at the Winter Games in PyeonChang, and had to wait again for a second run on the Giant Slalom yesterday before finishing with the gold medal, her second.

Shiffrin found herself in second place to Italy's Manuela Moelgg after the first GS run, but Shiffrin's second race vaulted her past the entire field and earned her the top spot on the podium. And the GS isn't even the 22-year old Shiffrin's signature race. Her real specialty is the slalom, and she'll compete in that event Friday as the sure favorite to win yet another gold, something no other American alpine skier has accomplished.

Other local Olympians competed yesterday. In men's down hill skiing, Keene, New York's Tommy Biesemeyer suffered an ankle injury in downhill training and was scratched from his race. But he was replaced by Starksboro's Ryan Cochran-Siegle, who had a solid race and came in 23rd.

In Biathlon, in the women's 15 K Individual, Susan Dunklee was the top U-S competitor, placing 19th. Emily Driessigacker came in 67th.

In Cross country, the women's 10 K, Stratton Mountain School's Jessie Diggins was just shy of the podium in 5th place. Montpelier's Liz Stevens also competed in that race, coming in 30th.

The other big news yesterday came in the form of two major upsets in men's hockey, and while no one expects the U.S. team to win gold, given that the National Hockey League has not allowed any of their players to compete in these games, it was rather shocking that the American team would lose its opening game to Slovenia, especially after taking a 2-0 lead into the third period. But that's what happened, when Slovenia chipped away at the U.S. lead and tied the game with just under 90 seconds left in regulation, then winning 3-2 in overtime.

It's a preliminary round loss for the U.S. but it does not bode well for the medal rounds, and if it amounts to a wake-up call for the U.S., the team of Olympic Athletes from Russia were subject to the equivalent of an air horn blasted into their ears before the crack of dawn.

Keep in mind that without any NHL players available for teams like Canada, the U.S., Sweden, etc., Russia, which is able to draw from its own professional league, is the clear favorite to win gold at these games, so dropping their opener 3-2 to Slovakia is the worst loss for the Russians since a game you may have heard of that was played in Lake Placid back in 1980.

There are two truths here, and one is that without the world's best players taking part in these Olympics, the results will not reflect which country lays claim to having the best men's hockey team, no matter who wins, but the other is that the three medals are really up for grabs this year, and as the U.S. and Russia losses show, any country in the tournament has a fair chance to snag one of them.

As for the NHL pros, the fans in Toronto are probably OK with not having any of their players taking 3 weeks off to play in South Korea, because the Maple Leafs are back to winning games in bunches, now winners of five in a row after pasting the Columbus Blue Jackets 6-3 in Toronto last night. Nazem Kadri led the Leafs offense with a hat trick.

Folks in Montreal might take a different view of their team's eligibility for the Olympics, perhaps preferring to see their roster play overseas at this point. The Habs were shut out 2-0 by the Avalanche in Colorado last night, with Semyon Varlamov frustrating Montreal by making 43 saves to earn the shut-out. The Canadiens have now lost 3 in a row and are an almost certain no-show for the playoffs this year.

To the NBA, and former Celtic Avery Bradley received a warm ovation from fans in Boston as he returned to face his old team with the L.A. Clippers last night, and Boston sure could have used Avery's defense, which is what he's known for, but the truth is no one was about to stop L.A.'s DeAndre Jordan last night. The 6'11" center poured in a career high 30 points to go with 13 rebounds, and Boston's fall back strategy of fouling Jordan and sending him to the free throw line didn't work either. Jordan shoots just 59% from the charity stripe but he went 8 for 9 last night as the Clippers routed the Celtics 129-119 despite 33 points from Kyrie Irving.

In men's college hoops the St. Michael's Purple Knights got another 20-point performance from Levi Holmes III, the junior guard pouring in 21 points, but the Knights still fell to Bentley College 82-74 in Massachusetts. Holmes has now recorded 17 games with at least 20 points this season for the 6-18 Purple Knights.

The St. Mike's women also lost to their Bentley counterparts, 75-63, although Leah Spencer had a strong game, leading all scorers with 20 points on the night.

Elsewhere in women's college hoops the UVM Catamounts held the Binghamton Bearcats to just 52 points. The problem was the Catamounts scored even fewer in a 52-38 loss on the road in upstate New York.

 

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