Saturday, 8 December 2012

And This Is Why I Don't Gamble

It was one of the most riveting sledge hockey games I've ever seen, and the gold medal was awarded to the team that found the wrinkle in the other's game. The Canada-USA game was one of the ages as it featured tight-checking, great goaltending, and a vast number of skills on display on both sides, but there had to be a winner crowned in Calgary at the 2012 World Sledge Hockey Challenge and the hometown fans didn't go happy happy. Team USA used a fantastic defensive effort to limit the high-octane offence of the Canadians to a mere eight shots - including none in the opening period - and captured their second gold medal in this tournament with a 1-0 victory!

USA goaltender Steve Cash wasn't busy, but he made all the stops necessary to turn the Canadians away. Defensively, this was about as good as I've ever seen a game played as the two teams combined for just 17 shots on net, a new a World Sledge Hockey Challenge record for fewest shots by both teams in a single game. Both teams were relentless in preventing and stopping shots from reaching their respective nets, but one shot did make it through and counted as the winner.

Taylor Chace's shot from the point eluded traffic and defenders as it made its way along the ice from the point, and Canadian goaltender Benoit St-Amand could not stop the puck as it found the back of the net. Late in the third period, Greg Westlake nearly tied the game as the Canadians mounted a furious effort to tie the score, but the puck that got behind Cash was cleared out of the goalmouth area by US forward Declan Farmer as it was inching its way towards the goal. Despite outshooting the Americans 5-1 in the final frame, the Canadians could not find an equalizer in their arsenal.

If you missed this game, you missed one of the best sledge hockey games I've ever seen, and I have watched a few in my time. Honestly, the skill these two teams possess is incredible, and I have nothing but good things to say about the country's respective programs. Congratulations go out to Team USA on their gold-medal effort, and congratulations to Canada for their silver medal!

In the bronze medal game, I actually predicted this one right as Norway finally found the back of the net and the scoresheet. Loyd Remi Solberg had a hat trick and Audun Bakke had four assists in leading Team Norway to a 5-0 victory and the bronze medal over Japan!

With the medal win today, Norway has now medalled at all six World Sledge Hockey Challenges, winning three silver and three bronze medals. Solberg's opening goal just 1:15 in was a beauty as he shelved a shot below the crossbar that Japanese goaltender Mitsuru Nagase had little chance on. Three Norway goals in the second, and another in the final frame by Solberg powered Norway to the convincing 5-0 win.

Japan, for all its efforts, didn't score once in the tournament in regulation, but they played well in facing off against the three powerhouse sledge hockey teams on the planet. Japan isn't far off from being one of the elite teams, but this tournament puts them in a difficult spot. They're getting there, but there's still a gap between Japan and the elite sledge hockey players.

If it's any consolation, Satoru Sudo was the only Japanese player to bulge the twine in five games, and he did so in the shootout against Norway in their preliminary game. Unfortunately, Japan lost that game, so that goal won't be on the final stats when the gamesheets are collected.

Congratulations and well done to gold medalists Team USA, silver medalists Team Canada, and bronze medalists Team Norway! With 2013 just around the corner, the build-up to Sochi should be a great year of competition!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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