Friday, 19 March 2010

And Then There Were Two

Two teams are left standing after the other six teams have finished their placement games at the 2010 Paralympic sledge hockey tournament. Team USA and Team Japan will meet in the gold medal game tomorrow in what should be an exciting finish to the week's games. USA defeated Japan earlier in the week by a 6-0 score, so there's a little retribution on the line for Japan as well. Of course, Team USA is the heavy favorite in being the defending World Champions. They have yet to surrender a goal in the tournament, and they are getting balanced scoring for everyone on the team. But no one believed Japan would beat Canada, yet here they are. This should be a great game, so check it out here at 3PM ET!

The bronze medal game went late last night for those of us not on the west coast, and it was a great game. Canada played Norway, and both teams showed some amazing skill, speed, and determination in this game that literally came down to the last seconds.

Both teams played a scoreless game into the third period, but there were chances. Canada had outshot the Norwegians 17-4 through the first two periods, but Nowegian goalie Roger Johansen was up to the task as the game remained scoreless. Paul Rosen has an easier time in the Canadian net, making just four saves, but the third period is where the two teams found some holes.

Canada struck first at 2:45. Adam Dixon took a Greg Westlake pass just inside the left hash marks and ripped a high shot to the far post that Johansen couldn't knock away. Dixon's high, hard shot was his fourth of the tournament, and Canada was out to a 1-0 lead.

During a scrum in the Canadian crease, referee Johnathan Morrison blew the call dead and immediately indicated a penalty shot was to be awarded to Norway at the 6:08 mark. Goaltender Paul Rosen snapped and had to be restrained by defenceman Ray Grassie as he attempted to get to Morrison because it appeared that he had covered the puck. The referee indicated that he saw Adam Dixon cover the puck in the crease, and Norway would have a penalty shot.

Rolf Einar Pedersen broke in on Rosen down the middle and made a gorgeous move to his right, sliding the puck underneath his sled as Rosen attempted the pokecheck. With Rosen down and out, Pedersen had all day to slide the puck in the open net. He calmly slide a backhander across the ice, and Norway was tied with Canada at 1-1 on Pedersen's first goal of the tournament.

The game pressed on late, and the final goal would be scored. With Norway looking to keep a play alive along the boards after Canada couldn't clear, Norwegian defenceman Eskil Hagen threw a shot on net with less than five seconds remaining. The shot, however, hit Billy Bridges as he attempted to block the shot, sending the puck high into the air away from its original trajectory. Paul Rosen, who had come out of his crease to cut down the angle, could only watch in horror as he couldn't reach the high, fluttering puck with his stick as he fell backwards. With 3.5 seconds remaining, the puck landed in the net, and Norway went into a mad celebration!

Hagan's first of the tournament would be the game-winner as the puck was dropped seconds later, and Norway secured the bronze medal with the 2-1 victory. Honestly, it was another heartbreaking game for the Canadians who appeared to control most of the game. Again, though, this is why they play the games.

Congratulations to Norway on their 2010 Paralympic bronze medal! Norway continues their streak of being the only team to medal in every Paralympic Games since sledge hockey was introduced!

In the other placement games, the Czech Republic needed overtime to defeat South Korea in the 5th/6th-place game. Korea took the lead earlier in the third period off a goal by Sang-Hyeon Park, his first of the tournament, but the Czechs tied it up a few minutes later. Erik Fojtik notched his third of the tournament to tie the game at 1-1. 2:16 into overtime, Michal Geier scored his second of the tournament, and gave the Czech Republic the fifth-place finish.

In the 7th/8th-place game, Italy met Sweden. Sweden was never expected to finish this low, so there was a great deal of pride on the line for both teams. Sweden, though, continued to struggle to score goals, and Italy showed that their strong performance in the preliminary games wasn't a fluke. Werner Winkler and Andrea Chiarotti scored single goals, Florian Planker scored a pair of goals, and
Santino Stillitano recorded the shutout in the 4-0 victory, earning the seventh-place finish.

With only one game to play, here are your updated standings:

  1. USA/Japan
  2. USA/Japan
  3. Norway
  4. Canada
  5. Czech Republic
  6. South Korea
  7. Italy
  8. Sweden
Congratulations to all the team for an extremely entertaining week of hockey, and some great finishes in a number of the games! I'll be watching the gold medal game tomorrow afternoon!

Until then, keep your sticks on the ice!

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