TORONTO – Josh Pauls (Green Brook, N.J.) scored and goaltender Steve Cash (Overland, Mo.) made 11 saves, but the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team couldn’t overcome a three-goal first period by Canada and eventually fell, 3-1, in the World Sledge Hockey Challenge championship game tonight in Toronto.
“We played Canada twice this week, and I thought we played with them for four of the six periods,” said U.S. Head Coach Jeff Sauer. “They outplayed us in the first period tonight, and did the same thing the other night. Other than that, I think we are pretty even. We have a couple players that are out, and getting them back will help us.”
Despite recording the same number of shots, it was Team Canada that was able to build a lead in the opening frame. Adam Dixon put the Canadians on the board when he sent a shot from the point through traffic and past U.S. goaltender Cash. Billy Bridges doubled the Team Canada lead when he picked up a puck in the left circle and beat Cash over the blocker, and then Greg Westlake made it 3-0 32 seconds later when he scored on a odd-man rush.
Team USA tried to start a rally in the second period. Pauls scored at 5:51 to cut the lead to 3-1 when he went hard to the net and collected a rebound. After Canadian goaltender Corbin Watson couldn’t corral a U.S. shot, the puck sat at the edge of the crease until Pauls swooped in and scored.
The U.S. squad continued to pressure in the second and controlled play for stretches in the final period, but couldn’t manage to find the back of the next again.
The U.S. National Sled Hockey Team will be off until it resumes play with a series against Canada Jan. 8-11 in Indian Trails, N.C.