From The Vancouver Sun:
VANCOUVER — In the end, it was as much about the game itself as it was about the gold medal.
The 2009 world champion United States added the 2010 Paralympic sledge hockey gold medal to their trophy case Saturday with a 2-0 win over a tenacious Japanese squad that finally got to the podium after three straight fifth-place finishes.
Norway took the bronze on Friday with a 2-1 win over Canada, the gold medallists in 2006, who finished fourth.
But the stunning success of this tournament and what it did to help grow the sport was as big a talking point Saturday as the final order of finish.
The game drew 5,810 fans, almost as many fans as UBC Thunderbird Arena can handle. The crowd loved the game. The players fed off the crowd. Games were televised live across Canada and NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) beamed the final back to Japan.
“The energy in the building . . . I don’t think you can beat it,” said American captain Andy Yohe. “All the folks in Canada love their hockey and it’s just exciting to be able to come in and play in that environment.
“I wasn’t in Salt Lake (2002 Games) or Nagano (1998), but I was in Turin (2006) and it wasn’t even close to the intensity that was out there. We think that’s awesome.”
Yohe and the rest of the Americans were dominant in this tournament, out-scoring opponents 19-0. They got goals Saturday from Alexi Salamone and Taylor Lipsett and shutout goaltending from Steve Cash. Lipsett iced the victory at 13:42 of the third 15-minute period on a power play after a holding call on Noritaki Ito by Norwegian referee Petter Vojan Hegle.
The Canadians, of course, were frustrated, disappointed and ultimately forward thinking after failing to get even a corner of the podium.
They were done in Friday by an inability to score and an unlucky bounce that produced the game-winning goal with just 16 seconds left in the third period.
“It’s terribly crushing,” said Canadian defenceman Adam Dixon, who got Canada’s lone goal Friday. "There are a couple of guys where this is their last game. Coming into today (Friday) after yesterday (a 3-1 semifinal loss to Japan) we wanted to at least walk out with our pride and a souvenir to go home with. It was a terrible bounce but we should have buried them earlier."
As many as five Canadians are likely to retire. Rosen, who’s 49, defencemen Herve Lord, 42, and Jean Labonte, 40, Shawn Matheson, 37, and forward Todd Nicholson, 41, being the prime candidates.
But there will be a changing of the guard. And if this tournament doesn’t make people want to play or follow the sport, nothing will.
“I feel sometimes like I was born to play sledge hockey and to be able to give back to the sport and help it grow, I believe this has been fantastic for the sport,” Canadian forward Mark Bowden said.
Canadian forward Greg Westlake hopes this tournament will create interest, particularly outside of Ontario and Quebec.
“You guys see the five guys here who might retire but you don’t see the young guys, the 18-year-olds, the 19-year-olds coming in,” said Westlake, a native of Oakville, Ont. “I encourage everyone to keep watching us, keep following the sport.“
You look at our roster right now and we’re basically a team from Ontario and Quebec. We need more players. We need our trials to be tougher, we need to make tougher cuts. If the thing that comes out of this experience is that we get more players from Western Canada then that’s huge. We need all of Canada.
”Yohe said it’s good to see a team like Japan get silver after three straight fifth-place finishes.“
Japan played great today,” he said. “It’s good to see other countries coming up and developing their programs. It’s good for the sport. As you see in other sports where a couple of countries dominate, it’s bad for the sport. The more teams we can get at a really high level the better off everybody’s going to be.”