Antelope Valley Press



US, Sweden will play for world junior gold after US beats Finland and Sweden tops Czech Republic

GOTHENBURG, Sweden — The United States will face host Sweden for gold at the IIHF world junior championsh­ip.

The U.S. advanced to the tournament final after Cutter Gauthier scored on the power play with 3:13 left in the third period to beat Finland 3-2 on Thursday. The Philadelph­ia Flyers prospect’s goal came after the Americans erased a twogoal deficit in the semifinal game.

“I’m proud of our guys,” U.S. coach David Carle said. “Even though we were down, I didn’t mind our first period and there was no panic in the room. Our special teams and goaltendin­g were excellent, and we’re excited to have the chance to play for a gold medal.”

Jimmy Snuggerud, a 2022 St. Louis Blues first-round pick, and Will Smith, whom the San Jose Sharks drafted fourth in 2023, scored the goals to mount the comeback. Detroit Red Wings prospect Trey Augustine made 19 saves in net to send the U.S. back to the world junior final, which takes place Friday.

Sweden got there by beating the Czech Republic 5-2, led by Jonathan Lekkerimak­i, who scored twice, including the go-ahead goal.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Lekkerimak­i said of the gold-medal game. “Very excited.”

The U.S. lost to Sweden at the under-18 worlds in 2022 before the players of this age group got a measure of revenge in the 2023 rematch.

“Stripped the gold medal from our necks,” Gauthier said of the under-18 defeat. “We remember it like yesterday.”

American captain Rutger McGroarty, another player born in 2004 on the wrong end of things in 2022, is ready for the jeers from the partisan crowd — including plenty of Canadians cheering on the Swedes — at Scandinavi­um arena.

“I don’t know who doesn’t love that, being the bad guy,” the Winnipeg Jets prospect said. “We’re up for being the bad guy and getting a gold medal on their home turf.”

The Finns and Czechs will play for bronze on Friday. The U.S. is looking to win gold at the under-20 event for the first time since 2021.

Two-time defending champion Canada was bounced in the quarterfin­als by the Czech Republic.

Magic to retire Shaquille O’Neal’s No. 32 jersey in ceremony Feb. 13

Shaquille O’Neal’s number will be retired Feb. 13 by the Orlando Magic, who will become the third NBA franchise to give that tribute to the four-time champion and Basketball Hall of Famer.

O’Neal will be the first player to get a jersey number — he wore No. 32 in Orlando — retired by the Magic. The Los Angeles Lakers retired his No. 34 jersey in April 2013, and the Miami Heat retired his No. 32 jersey in December 2016. O’Neal won three titles with the Lakers, and another with the Heat.

“When someone asks who was the first player to officially put the Orlando Magic on the map, the answer is simple — Shaquille O’Neal,” Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins said. “He took this franchise to new heights, both on and off the court, and his legacy is still felt within our organizati­on today. On behalf of the DeVos family, we are excited to honor Shaquille by raising No. 32 into the rafters of the Kia Center, where it will remain forever.”

O’Neal was the No. 1 pick in the 1992 NBA draft by the Magic, and he spent his first four pro seasons in Orlando before leaving for the Lakers in 1996. He was the NBA’s rookie of the year for Orlando in 1993, was an All-Star in all four of his seasons with the Magic, led them to their first NBA Finals in 1995 and still ranks among the franchise’s career leaders in several categories, including blocked shots (second, 824), rebounds (third, 3,691) and points scored (sixth, 8,019).

Theegala leads season opener at Kapalua with 64. Morikawa hits opening tee shot packed with emotion

KAPALUA, Hawaii — Sahith Theegala made six straight birdies to start the back nine and finished with one last birdie for a 9-under 64 and a one-shot lead in The Sentry as the PGA Tour season began Thursday with beautiful views on the horizon and on scorecards.

The largest field in Kapalua — 59 players consisting of PGA Tour winners and the top 50 in the FedEx Cup — had little trouble on a Plantation course with only a mild breeze and fast fairways.

Collin Morikawa was among those at 65, starting with what he considers one of the most emotional opening tee shots he has ever hit.

The two-time major champion has a strong connection to Maui through his grandparen­ts, who were born in Lahaina and long ago ran a restaurant. He was moved deeply by the deadly fires in August that killed 100 people and leveled a historic town.

So it was no surprise the PGA Tour had him hit the opening shot of the 2024 season, right after a ceremony on the first tee that included a Hawaiian prayer and blessing.

“I can talk about final rounds, last shots, first tee, final group and those in the majors, but that was as big of an honor as I could have had,” he said. “Not because it was the first tournament of the year, but because it was out here in Maui, everything that this week represents

for me. It just means that much more.”

He followed that with six birdies and a 3-wood he carved beautifull­y up to the elevated green for an eagle on the par-5 ninth.

FedEx Cup champion Viktor Hovland, Jason Day, Camilo Villegas and Sungjae Im also were one shot off the lead at 65.

Guard Ricky Rubio says his NBA career is over. He stepped away from Cavs to work on mental health

CLEVELAND — With uncommon vision on the basketball court, Ricky Rubio could make a basic pass look extraordin­ary. A true playmaker.

After stepping away from his playing career — and the Cleveland Cavaliers — this season to address mental health issues that he’s still working on, Rubio said Thursday that his NBA career is over after 12 seasons.

The 33-year-old Rubio, who has also had a distinguis­hed internatio­nal career with Spain, alluded to his recent struggles while adding that he’s “doing much better and getting better every day.”

Rubio’s announceme­nt on X, formerly known as Twitter, came after he and the Cavs came to an agreement on a contract buyout, a person familiar with the negotiatio­ns told The Associated Press.

The Cavs will get some financial relief from his $6.1 million this year and $6.4 million for 2024-25, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the sides were still finalizing details of the package.

NBA fines Nets $100,000 for violating player participat­ion policy by resting players

The NBA fined the Brooklyn Nets $100,000 on Thursday, marking the first time a team was sanctioned for violating the league’s player participat­ion policy that went into effect this season.

The Nets held four rotation players — starters Spencer Dinwiddie, Nic Claxton and Cam Johnson, along with key reserve Dorian Finney-Smith — out of what became a 144122 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Dec. 27. And three of the players that Brooklyn did start that night logged 12 minutes or less.

“Following an investigat­ion, including review by an independen­t physician, the NBA determined that four Nets rotation players, who did not participat­e in the game, could have played under the medical standard in the Player Participat­ion Policy, which was adopted prior to this season,” the league said. “The organizati­on’s conduct violated the Policy, which is intended to promote player participat­ion in the NBA’s 82-game season.”

After that game against the Bucks, Nets coach Jacque Vaughn insisted that the team did not treat the game as if it was a meaningles­s preseason contest. It was the second night of a back-to-back for Brooklyn and Vaughn said he didn’t want to put any player “in harm’s way.”

“I have too much respect for the dudes that suit up and put their body on the line

and the competitio­n level to even mention the word exhibition,” Vaughn said that night.

The league’s board of governors approved the new policy — which the NBA says was put together out of “considerat­ion for the interests of fans, integrity of the game, player health, competitiv­e fairness among teams, and transparen­cy” — in September. Teams can be fined $100,000 for the first violation, $250,000 for the second and then an additional $1 million gets tacked on for all subsequent violations.

Antetokoun­mpo and James lead early returns in NBA AllStar Game fan voting

NEW YORK — Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokoun­mpo and the Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James are the early leaders in fan voting for next month’s All-Star Game, the NBA said Thursday.

Antetokoun­mpo had 2,171,812 votes to lead all Eastern Conference frontcourt players, and James had 2,008,645 votes to lead all Western Conference frontcourt players.

James is looking for a record 20th All-Star selection; he is currently tied with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the most in league history with 19. He and Antetokoun­mpo were the leaders in fan voting last season as well.

Fan voting counts for 50% of the formula used to select the All-Star starters. Media voting counts for another 25% and voting by NBA players determines the other 25% of the formula. The league is reverting to the classic East vs. West format for the All-Star Game this year, with three frontcourt players and two guards in each starting lineup.

The West frontcourt leaders are James, Phoenix’s Kevin Durant and Denver’s Nikola Jokic. The East frontcourt leaders are Antetokoun­mpo, Philadelph­ia’s Joel Embiid and Boston’s Jayson Tatum. The West guard leaders are Dallas’ Luka Doncic and Golden State’s Stephen Curry, and the East guard leaders are Indiana’s Tyrese Haliburton and Milwaukee’s Damian Lillard.

The All-Star Game is Feb. 18 in Indianapol­is. Fan voting continues through Jan. 20. Coaches will choose the reserves for both rosters.

Fire at home of Dolphins receiver Hill started by child playing with cigarette lighter

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A fire at the $6.9 million home owned by Miami Dolphins receiver Tyreek Hill was started by a child playing with a cigarette lighter in a bedroom, a fire official said Thursday.

“It was an accidental fire,” Davie Fire Marshal Robert Taylor told The Associated Press.

Taylor did not provide the age of the child, or the amount of damage caused by the fire. He said the investigat­ion is now closed.

The house is located in Southwest Ranches, which is about 30 miles northwest of Miami, and was purchased by Hill in May 2022 shortly after the Kansas City Chiefs traded him to the Dolphins.

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