Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Two Powers Meet

Canada and Norway meet tonight in Vancouver with first-place in Group B on the line at the 2010 Paralympic Games. Canada is 17-4-1 all-time against the Norwegians, but Norway has shown some grit and determination in rallying against both Sweden and Italy for wins. Paul Rosen will get the start for the Canadians tonight, and his counterpart in the Norwegian net will be Roger Johansen. Canada is in white, and Norway is in red for the game.

  • 15 seconds in, and Norway is called for hooking. Not the way that Norway wanted to start, and Morten Vaernes will serve two minutes or less.
  • Billy Bridges made sure it was less than two minutes. Bridges snapped a high shot to the right of Johansen inside the post, and the puck found the back of the net. Just 31 seconds in, and Canada has the lead on a powerplay goal by Bridges, his first of the tournament. Canada leads 1-0.
  • Jean Labonté gets called for a hold as he wrapped up an arm of Loyd Remi Johansen, and Norway will go to the powerplay at 1:51 of the first period. They are one-for-six in the tournament, and Canada has two shorthanded goals.
  • Just after Labonté's penalty expired, Greg Westlake is called for roughing at the 4:56 mark. Canada needs to remain disciplined. Norway is starting play more offensive, and can certainly score when given the opportunity.
  • Norway's Helge Bjornstad is called for holding moments later. Four-on-four play will take to the ice at the 5:04 mark.
  • Billy Bridges absolutely laid out Morten Vaernes at the 6:35 mark, and somehow referee Derek Berkebile thought it was roughing. A good shoulder-to shoulder check by Bridges shouldn't be a penalty. However, Norway will go back to the powerplay.
  • Brad Bowden showed amazing speed down the left side to corral a loose puck. Moving in from the left side, Bowden feathered a gorgeous pass across to Greg Westlake who buried it over a sprawled Johansen for his second shorthanded goal and sixth of the tournament at 7:14. Canada leads 2-0.
  • More penalties are handed out at the 7:35 mark. Raymond Grassie and Rolf Einar Pedersen are sent off for coincidental minors, so the Norwegian powerplay will continue.
  • Canada is certainly showing why they are considered one of the favorites. They have aggressively forechecked, finished every check, and have shown their unbelievable speed thus far through the first period. With two minutes to play, Canada certainly has controlled the period.
  • At the end of the first period, Canada has the 2-0 lead. Canada's physical play have certainly forced some turnovers, but their overall speed has been the factor that has overwhelmed the Norwegians.
It's interesting to see some of the hurdles that these sledge hockey players have overcome. 27 year-old Raymond Grassie, for example, underwent a double leg amputation, but the young man has shown that his setback won't hold him back. 52 year-old Herve Lord lost a leg after a car accident in 1983, but the veteran Canadian player is now the unofficial leader of the team. It was because of him that most of the Canadian players took up the sport of sledge hockey.

These are the kinds of stories that really puts things into perspective. Not only are these men amazing athletes, but they have faced adversity, conquered it, and are now heroes to many for what they have overcome. They have a permanent fan in me, and I'm proud of the entire Canadian Paralympic team and their efforts in representing Canada. They are true Olympic heroes!

Ok, back to the game. Here's the second period action.
  • 11 seconds into the period saw Canada break into the Norwegian zone. Westlake fed Bowden cross-ice, and Bowden fired a quick shot on net. Johansen was moving away from the right post where the puck was heading, and couldn't recover in time to stop the puck. Bowden's third goal of the tournament showed exactly how important a shot on net can be. Canada leads 3-0.
  • Graeme Murray was sent off for roughing at 1:24, sending Norway to its fourth powerplay of the night. Again, Canada needs to play disciplined. Otherwise, these powerplays may come back to haunt them in the end.
  • Rolf Einar Pedersen ends the powerplay early by taking a high-sticking penalty at 3:24. The physical play on Pedersen, Norway's top player, is clearly having an effect. Pedersen takes his second penalty of the night for high-sticking Greg Westlake.
  • Greg Westlake is really making a play for the MVP. Bowden's low shot is redirected in front by Westlake, and the puck slides past a helpless Johansen for a Canadian powerplay goal at 3:48. Westlake has his second of the night, and sixth of the tournament. Canada leads 4-0.
  • With 9:48 gone, there will be another Norwegian penalty. Kjell Vidar Royne is sent off for interference, and Canada's lethal powerplay comes back onto the ice.
  • Adam Dixon's shot from the point on the powerplay at 11:04 spells the end of Johansen's night. Dixon's long shot found its way past a couple of screens, and Johansen didn't even move. That's the third goal of the tournament for Dixon. Kissinger Deng will take over in the net for Norway. Canada leads 5-0.
  • Norway is whistled for another penalty at 12:18. Thomas Jacobsen is sent off for roughing after mugging a Canadian player along the boards. No dice on the powerplay for Canada as Norway kills off the penalty.
  • The period draws to a close with no other highlights, and Canada has a 5-0 lead after 30 minutes in a game that they have dominated.
I've been looking at the names of the players on Norway's jerseys, and it appears that they are written in their native Norwegian spelling rather than the generic English. For example, Helge Bjørnstad has the "O" with the slash in it. Also, Morten Værnes has the "A" and the "E" combined. I'll see if I can find pictures of both players as they show off some great lettering from their native language.

On to third period action!
  • It appears that Canada has let up on the gas ever so slightly. They are still playing smothering defence, but they seem to be content to hold back a little in the offensive zone. This might be a good idea for Canada with the semi-finals happening on Thursday. Why risk any injuries?
  • In just speaking about the semi-finals, USA secured top spot in Group A with a 6-0 win over Japan earlier today. Japan finished second in Group A, and will play Canada on Thursday in the early game if the score holds true.
  • 6:06 into the third period sees Canada back on the powerplay after Loyd Remi Johansen is whistled for roughing. A punch to the head will definitely get you two minutes or less to think about what you did, and that's what happened to Johansen. Norway weathers the storm, however, and comes away unscathed.
  • Close the book on this one. Canada wins 5-0, but a late scrum between Rolf Einar Pedersen and Todd Nicholson shows just how frustrated the Norwegians were. There's no need for this, and the referee and linesmen quickly step in before the situation escalates.
With the win, Canada wins Group B, and Norway takes second-place in Group B. Both advance to the semi-finals on Thursday. Here are the times of the semi-final games so you can catch all the action online:

Canada vs. Japan - 3PM ET
USA vs. Norway - 10PM ET

Of course, the winners will square off for the gold medal. Canada is the defending Paralympic Champions, but the USA is the defending World Champions. We could see the third Canada-USA hockey final at the Olympics, and this game should be a battle of the titans. That is, of course, if both teams advance.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the blog this game is the only thing on my mind this evening. Since I can't be at the game your blog has been great.

Teebz said...

You're welcome!

I'm a huge fan of these guys, and I really think more people would enjoy this game if they were aware of it.

I'll keep following the Canadian team, and posting all that happens.

I'm glad to help you get your fill of sledge hockey! :o)

Anonymous said...

What happened to Tommy Rovlestad #4 - Norways's captain. He was gone from the game very early on and didn't return. He didn't come out on the ice at the end of the game either. I don't recall seeing him get injured????