Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews taking quantum leap with record start

TORONTO – The way last season ended did not sit well with Auston Matthews.

There was the seven-game series loss to Boston in the opening round, but also an uncharacteristic dry spell in the spring. For the first time as an NHLer – perhaps the first time in his life – Matthews saw his play come under intense question and scrutiny. He had a terse exchange or two in front of the cameras.

In the big picture, it was no big deal. All of it was perfectly understandable in the context of professional sports. But for Matthews it was a reminder that there was still room for growth; still steps to be taken in his pursuit of becoming the best in the game.

It has only been a month since Matthews returned to work with the Toronto Maple Leafs and instead it looks he’s taken a quantum leap. The team’s best player has gotten significantly better.

“Just the most in control. Just completely in control,” said goaltender Garret Sparks, when asked what stands out about his teammate.

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Source:: Sportsnet.ca

State’s best cross country runners, teams look for new challenges at Wednesday’s championships

The toughest part of Timo Mostert’s job isn’t coming up with training plans or race strategies.

It is convincing talented young runners why they should ask more of themselves than the world does.

“We live in a society where doing enough to get by is kind of what society does,” said the American Fork boys cross country coach who leads his 21st team for the Cavemen to Wednesday’s state championships at Sugarhouse Park. “Lots of people are satisfied with just getting by. But that’s not a very satisfactory way to live.”

In persuading young athletes to do more than is required, he’s built a perennial contender at both the state, regional and national level.

“(We) try to convince them to seek out their potential, to try and push themselves to greater things,” he said. “Hopefully that will bleed over into all aspects of their lives.”

“It’s a team that’s really familiar with everything we do. We just try to get them to believe they can consistently improve year to year and do things to help the team out.”

American Fork boys cross country coach Timo Mostert

As American Fork tries to defend the 6A state title with most of last year’s team returning, including three all-state runners, Mostert said the real challenges come from not being satisfied with a win or an individual accomplishment. Real satisfaction comes from growth, sacrifice and the kind of discipline that is rare.

“Half our team is seniors,” he said, “And half of them have raced for American Fork since their freshman year. It’s a team that’s really familiar with everything we do. We just try to get them to believe they can consistently improve year to year and do things to help the team out.” This year’s team is led by Dalton Brems, Luke Grundvig and Carson Clinger. They will have plenty …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Sports News

Maple Leafs’ Kapanen proving he belongs in top-six role

TORONTO – As the young, freewheeling Toronto Maple Leafs core cleared out their lockers in the spring of 2017, disappointed yet encouraged by the first of many trips to the post-season since winning the Auston Matthews lottery, we shared a few minutes with a quiet Kasperi Kapanen — the only tangible asset remaining from those scorched-earth, multi-player trades of Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel.

Kapanen, a late-March AHL call-up that spring, had impressed as a fourth-line energy guy in that six-game, nail-biting series against the Washington Capitals. He scored twice in Game 2, including the double-OT winner.

As he packed his bags, we asked him if he could envision cracking the Leafs’ top six the following fall.

“Looking at the guys in this room, the talent we have, top six, I don’t think I belong there, to be honest,” Kapanen said.

The comment was harsh and humble and rare coming from the mouth a professional athlete. These guys run on confidence, often manifested by word before deed.

But the speedy winger was correct.

Kapanen didn’t even make the Leafs lineup out of camp in 2017-18, partly because he could slide back to the farm system without a waiver hassle. And he’d need to wait 18 months for a real top-six shot and his next two-goal NHL game.

That would be Monday night, when Kapanen opened and closed the scoring in Toronto’s 4-1 victory over the visiting Los Angeles Kings.

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Source:: Sportsnet.ca

Utah notes: Wishnowsky named Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week

SALT LAKE CITY — Three days after running a career-long 28 yards for a first down in the fourth quarter of Utah’s 42-10 win over Arizona, Utah punter Mitch Wishnowsky was named Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week.

The senior captain also had a 55-yard punt that wound up on the Arizona 2. It was one of two kicks that were downed inside the 10-yard line. Overall, three of Wishnowsky’s four punts pinned the Wildcats within the 20.

“Mitch did an outstanding job punting the ball,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham.

The Pac-12 voters agreed, honoring Wishnowsky for the first time this season and fourth time overall.

“It’s awesome,” he said.

Wishnowsky noted that his successful run for a first down created a stir on social media. The Utes were up 35-10 at the time.

“I’ve seen on Twitter a few people are a bit upset,” Wishnowsky said. “But, I mean, if I see it open I’m instinctively going to run it.”

Wishnowsky has a green light to head downfield with the ball if certain circumstances arise in a rugby-punt situation. He’s 2-for-2 this season in reaching the first-down marker.

“The adrenalin rush is like nothing that I’ve had before,” Wishnowsky said.

ON THE LINE: Whittingham is pleased with how sophomore Orlando Umana has performed in place of injured center Lo Falemaka the past two games. Even so, Whittingham noted that the job belongs to Falemaka, a senior captain, when he’s healthy and able to play.

“Long-term, though that is certainly a possibility for Orlando and he has proven the last two weeks that he is a very capable center. He is really an inside three guy whether that is at center or guard, we just know he isn’t going to play tackle,” Whittingham said. “We will see after this year who emerges at center. We have some good …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Sports News