U.S. and Canada to meet for sled hockey gold in Goyang
An all-North American final is set at the 2013 International Paralympic Committee Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships A-Pool in Goyang, Korea, after Team USA topped Russia and Canada cruised against the Czech Republic in the semi-finals on Thursday.
The two teams will play each other for the first time ever in a gold-medal game at the championships. Both are undefeated in Goyang.
Team USA once again flexed their strength on defense on Thursday, just barely edging Russia with a 2-1 win to advance to their third consecutive title at game at the world championship.
"It wasn't a pretty win. We had to work for it," said Jeff Sauer, who is in his second year as head coach of the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team. "They kind of went after our weaknesses."
The Americans struck first in the contest, as Alexi Salamone netted a score at the 5:17 mark in the opening period off a pass from Kevin McKee.
A nearly quiet second period concluded with a Taylor Chace goal for the USA, assisted by Declan Farmer.
Then in the third period, Russia's Vasilii Varlakov became the first player to score on the USA at the Championships just 4:06 into the final frame, closing the gap to 2-1.
USA were able to hold off Russia's final push until the buzzer, though, with goaltender Steve Cash tallying seven saves on the day.
"We did get the one, but I still don't think the team played to the best of our abilities," Cash said.
"It was a tight game until the end. While we did get a couple of goals on them, they can back and I think that deflated us a little bit. The last 10 minutes of the game were really tough, but I guess that's the way it goes and luckily we came out on top."
In the evening's semi-final Canada's potent offense proved too much for the Czech Republic, as they left the ice with a 5-0 victory.
After a scoreless first period, Canadian captain Greg Westlake opened up their attack just over three minutes into the second frame off a pass from Adam Dixon. It only took Westlake two minutes later to find the net again, and this time he was assisted by Billy Bridges.
With a 2-0 advantage, Canada did not stop there, as Dominic Larocque scored off a pass from Marc Dorion and then Dorion scored himself, assisted by Kevin Rempel, to give them a 4-0 lead at the end of the second period.
Adam Dixon sealed the deal with a score late in the third period to make it 5-0.
Canada out shot the Czech Republic in the game 29-6, with Michal Geier having half of the attempts for the Czechs.
The Canadians already know they will better their bronze-medal finish from the last two World Championships A-Pool, but they're hungry for their first gold in the event since 2008.
"It's a great feeling," Dorion said. "Every time we come to a tournament like the World Championships, it's our goal to get into that gold-medal game. We're very happy and very excited."
Canada will now challenge defending world and Paralympic champions USA for the gold on Saturday. Sochi 2014 host nation Russia will go up against the Czech Republic in the bronze-medal game before that.
But first, Italy will face Norway in the fifth-place game on Friday, with the winner taking the final Sochi 2014 qualification spot available at this tournament. Prior to that, host nation Korea will taken on Sweden in the seventh-place game.