Sunday, 14 March 2010

More Vancouver Sledding

It's hard to say that Italy was a warm-up game for Canada yesterday when the Italian played extremely well. However, whatever it took for Canada to break through in that third period with three goals carried over into today's game against Sweden. This game was supposed to pit two sledge hockey powers against one another, but it unfortunately turned into a blowout for one team. Let's look at how this game progressed.

Benoit St-Amand got the start for Canada today while Sweden sent Ulf Nilsson to the nets. Between St-Amand and Rosen, Canada has two sensational goaltenders on its roster, so it's not like Canada was any disadvantage with a new goaltender.

Just 1:25 in, Canada got out to a lead. Brad Bowden took a pass from Todd Nicholson and ripped a shot on net that Nilsson got most of, but not enough. The puck just trickled across the line, and the Canadians were out in front 1-0 with Bowden's first of the tournament.

Sweden picked up the next goal after a Canadian turnover. Niklas Ingvarsson found himself all alone as he hustled into the Canadian zone all alone, and he fired the puck past St-Amand. Ingvarsson's first goal of the tournament tied the game at 1-1 just 13 seconds after Bowden's goal.

At 7:44, the deadlock was broken. Greg Westlake scored perhaps the nicest goal thus far in the tournament when he tapped home a gorgeous feed from Todd Nicholson. Bowden, Nicholson, and Westlake made the three-way passing play look easy. Westlake's third goal of the tournament put Canada back up 2-1.

Adam Dixon added to Canada's lead at the 12:54 mark. Dixon converted a feed from Billy Bridges when he fired the puck past an outstretched Nilsson from the left side of the crease. Dixon's first of the tournament put Canada up 3-1.

Bowden chipped in his second of the game 53 seconds later to make it 4-1, and the rout was on. To give you an idea of how badly Canada was outplaying the Swedes, the only shot that St-Amand faced in the period was the breakaway goal by Niklas Ingvarsson. A save percentage of zero for St-Amand, but his team was up 4-1 after 15 minutes of play.

The second period saw Canada's special teams take over. Greg Westlake notched a powerplay goal at 2:13 after Sweden's Niklas Ingvarsson was sent off for boarding. Westlake's fourth of the tournament made it 5-1. Adam Dixon made it 6-1 with his second of the tournament on the powerplay after Niklas Ingvarsson had been sent to the penalty box again.

After that, Canada ran into some penalty problems, but it didn't stop the scoring. With Marc Dorion and Billy Bridges in the penalty box, Greg Westlake dumped the puck into the Swedish zone. The puck would have missed the net entirely, but Nilsson attempted to play the puck with his glove and, instead, deflected the puck into his own net. Westlake's fifth of the tournament came with two men off, and put Canada up 7-1 at 10:28.

Canada would round out the scoring in the second period when Marc Dorion was sprung shorthanded just 1:05 after Westlake's goal. Dorion buried another goal past Nilsson, and Canada had the 8-1 lead going into the second intermission on Dorion's second goal of the tournament.

Again, Canada was dominant in that period, holding the Swedes to zero shots. You read that correctly: zero shots. That included a two-man advantage and a powerplay that lasted for three minutes. St-Amand's stats to that point? One goal-against, and a save percentage of zero.

Dorion kept his part of the show rolling in the third period. Even-strength goals by Dorion at 1:19 and 4:58 of the third period gave him the hat trick, and pushed him to four goals in the tournament. Sweden did manage a couple of shots in this period, but when the smoke cleared, Canada had secured the 10-1 victory.

It's interesting to hear the European teams speak about how much faster the game is on small ice. Sweden certainly looked overwhelmed against the Canadians out there today, and Norway's most notable player said that the small ice is an advantage to the North American teams.

"I think we maybe have a little problem with the small rinks, where it’s fast, fast, fast," Norwegian veteran Rolf Einar Pedersen explained to Mark Beamish of The Vancouver Sun. "We’re used to having more time and ice to make plays. But we’re getting there. Canada puts a lot of pressure on a team. They play on a small rink all year, and that’s what they know best."

Norway, who scored a 2-1 win over the Italians, also move to 2-0 in the tournament, setting up a showdown with Canada on Tuesday for top spot in the group. Both teams secured berths in the semi-finals with their 2-0 records, so Tuesday's game still means a lot to both teams.

In other games, the USA secured a spot in the semi-finals after their 3-0 win over the Czech Republic. The Czechs are now 0-2 after falling to Japan on Saturday night in the late game by a 2-1 score. Japan and South Korea are playing in Sunday's late game, so we'll update those scores on Tuesday.

If Japan wins, they will face the USA on Tuesday with top spot in their group on the line. If they happen to lose, though, Japan will need to beat the USA to get into the semi-finals. South Korea will advance to the semi-finals if they win tonight, and either win on Tuesday over the Czech Republic or have Japan fall to the USA.

Either way, it appears that we could be in store for another Canada-USA final in hockey if everything plays out as it should. But that's the beauty of hockey: any team can beat any other team on any given day.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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