From The Vancouver Sun:
VANCOUVER - First it was no gold. Then it was not even a medal.
Canada’s sledge hockey team, the reigning Paralympic champions, will leave Vancouver as the fourth place country after stunningly losing the bronze medal game 2-1 to Norway Friday on a deflected shot from the blueline with 3.6 seconds remaining.
“I’m in shock,” said forward Brad Bowden. “It’s like I’ve been in shock two days in a row for sure.”
The Canadians had closed out the round-robin undefeated with a relatively easy 5-0 win over Norway on Tuesday, but then lost their semifinal game on Thursday 3-1 to a Japanese squad they had beaten 12 consecutive times since 2004.
They dominated that game territorially and did the same Friday against the Norwegians. But they were stymied by some terrific goaltending by Roger Johansen and their own inability to get any real quality chances.
“We kept most of the play in their end and that’s great, but it’s kind of in vain if you’re not getting pucks on net and it kind of bit us in the butt tonight,” said Bowden.
With Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Premier Gordon Campbell in the crowd at UBC’s Thunderbird Arena, the game was scoreless into third period until Canada struck first at 2:45 of the frame on a goal by defenceman Adam Dixon.
But just over three minutes later, after Canada had killed off a lengthy two-man Norwegian power play advantage, Dixon was whistled for closing his hand on the puck in a mad scramble in the Canadian crease.
Rolf Einar Pederson scored on the ensuing penalty shot.
The game appeared headed to overtime, but with time wounding down, Canadian captain Jean Labonte’s clearance along the boards was stopped at the blueline by Norwegian defenceman Eskil Hagen.
Hagen who lives in Norway with former Canadian cross-country Paralympian Shauna Maria Whyte, fired a high shot that went off Billy Bridges’ upraised hands at the face-off circle, lofting up and over a helpless Paul Rosen in the Canadian net. The goal set off a wild celebration by the Norwegians.
“For us, little Norway to beat Canada in its home arena, is f------ great,” said Pedersen, the cocky Norwegian veteran who loves to stick it to Canada. “It’s almost like a gold medal.”
The real gold medal game will go today at noon between the U.S. and Japan.
Johansen said that after some horrible defensive efforts earlier in the tournament, the Norwegians tightend considerably Friday and “made it easy for me.” And he claimed he had told Hagen earlier in the game to try to fire some high shots at Rosen, whom he said loses his balance on high floaters.
“What I thought [when he scored?] Beating Canada at their home soil, is that possible? I haven’t landed yet.”
For Canada, which had come to Vancouver believing it could match the Olympic gold won by the men’s and women’s national teams, it was a heartbreaking defeat.
“It’s terribly crushing,” said Dixon. “After [the Japan] game, we wanted to come in today and at least walk out with our pride and with a souvenir to go home with. But a terrible bounce . . . We should have buried them earlier.”
It was quite likely the final game in the maple leaf jersey for a quintet of veterans, including Rosen, 49, Labonte, 40, former captain Todd Nicholson, 41, and third-liners Herve Lord, 52, and Shawn Matheson, 37.
“It’s sad to see guys go, but at the same time it’s exciting to see guys coming in,” said sniper Greg Westlake.
“[The media] sees the five older players we have here that might retire, but you don’t see the young guys, the 18- and 19-year-olds that are good hockey players. We do have some good talent coming in.”
Written by Peter Quartuccio
Upset looked to be the order of the day after the 1st period of the U.S. versus Norway sled hockey game on Thursday night. Team Japan had stunned the host country earlier on, beating Canada in their signature sport to earn a place in the 2010 Paralympic Sled Hockey Finals on Saturday. Some might say that the Canadians went into the game looking past Japan, and of course the emphasis will be placed on how Canada blew it rather than how Team Japan won it in what U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Forward Tim Jones called “one of the best games I’ve ever seen [a team play].” Truth be told, Team Japan simply outplayed Canada, which is remarkable considering they had endured a 6-0 trouncing on Tuesday night against Team USA.
Norway looked as if they could continue the trend and ensure that everyone would get the matchup they’ve been dying for, but with the Bronze rather than the Gold at stake. The U.S. looked tight as a drum in the 1st period. They were being pushed around and making poor passes. Ray Maluta, head coach of Team USA, said after the game that his team was “nervous” in the 1st period, and that they were “pressing” rather than playing their game. They, like Canada, looked ripe for an upset. Things changed, however, in the 2nd period. About eight minutes into the period, American Forward Greg Shaw made a slick move near the Norway net, fooling Norway’s goalie Roger Johansen and putting the puck past him. Shaw’s goal opened the floodgates, not in the form of a torrent of goals, but in a surge of confidence. Amid chants of “Let’s Go Norway” that easily drowned out the cheers of “USA,” Team USA took over the game after Shaw’s goal, one which may very well go down as the most important goal scored in recent U.S. Sled Hockey history. Not to be overlooked, however, was the contribution of goalie Steve Cash, who has been simply magnificent during the Paralympics. “Money,” as he is known on the squad, has not allowed a goal in 165 consecutive minutes of Paralympic play. Just minutes after Shaw scored, Norway had a breakaway chance that could’ve resulted in an equalizing goal and a swift momentum shift back to the Norwegians. Cash, however, made a great save, protecting the lead and maintaining the momentum. The U.S. scored twice after Cash’s save, a power play goal by Taylor Chace in the 2nd and a late 3rd period goal by Joe Howard, which essentially put a bow on Team USA’s 3-0 win.
When asked how he feels about his players, Coach Maluta replied, “I love our team.” Team USA gave him good reason to feel that way on Thursday night. They showed determination and grit, battling a tough team in Norway with nothing to lose, and recovering from a very shaky first 20 minutes. They, in short, proved they can take a punch; Team Canada cannot make the same claim. The Canadians will play Team Norway on Friday night for the Bronze. (Norway lost to Canada 5-0 earlier in the Paralympics.) For the U.S., they will have a chance to win their second Paralympic Gold Medal in Sled Hockey on Saturday against Japan at 12:00 PM local time.
For more coverage of the 2010 Winter Paralympics in Vancouver, please visit www.WheelchairSportsFederation.org
From US Paralympics Website:
Written by Alex Clark
Photo: Richard Lam
Team USA will face Japan for sled hockey gold on Saturday.
VANCOUVER, B.C. - The U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team earned its fourth consecutive shutout victory tonight, 3-0, over Norway in the semifinals of the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games. Team USA will face Japan Saturday (March 20) at 12 p.m. PDT in the gold-medal game.
Team USA will look to become the first-ever team to claim its second Paralympic Winter Games sled hockey tournament gold medal. The U.S. also won gold at the 2002 Paralympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah. Other gold medal winners include Sweden (1994), Norway (1998), and Canada (2006).
"We came out a little nervous tonight, but fought through it," said Ray Maluta, head coach of the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team. "Our guys got better as the game went on, and we've put ourselves exactly where we wanted to be: the gold-medal game."
Team USA broke a scoreless tie nine minutes into the second period. A persistent forecheck by Josh Pauls (South Plainfield, N.J.) led to a turnover inside Norway's blue line. Greg Shaw (Park City, Utah) picked up the loose puck and drove to the net, maneuvering around Norway goalie Roger Johansen and slipping a shot into the open side.
The U.S. extended its lead to 2-0 less than two minutes later on the power play. Following an offensive-zone faceoff win, Team USA cycled the puck until Alexi Salamone (Grand Island, N.Y.) escaped in the near corner. He fed defenseman Taylor Chace (Hampton Falls, N.H.) at the left dot, where he skated to the slot and fired a shot off of a Norway defender and over Johansen's glove for his third goal of the tournament.
Joe Howard (Kinston, Mass.) put the game out of reach with three minutes remaining in the third period. After taking a centering pass from Salamone, Howard snapped a quick shot past Johansen's glove, giving the U.S. the three-goal advantage it would hold until the final horn.
Team USA goalie Steve Cash (Overland, Mo.) stopped 12 shots in the shutout victory. In 165 minutes of action so far, he has yet to allow a goal on 28 shots faced.
From NHL.com website:
By John McGourty - NHL.com Staff Writer
Canada beat the U.S. in the Olympic gold-medal games for men's and women's ice hockey last month in Vancouver.
There was the opportunity for a three-peat meeting at the ongoing 2010 Paralympics Sled Hockey tournament, but while the U.S. will have a chance for gold, Canada came up short in its semifinal.
The No. 1-seeded U.S. team beat Norway, 3-0, on Thursday, but Canada was upset by Japan, 3-1. The championship game between the U.S. and Japan will be played Sunday at noon PT (CTV).
Canada and Norway will meet for the bronze medal at 7 p.m. PT (CTV).
The United States defeated Japan, 6-0, in a preliminary-round game last Tuesday.
U.S. second-line center Josh Pauls, 17, from South Plainfield, N.J., is a member of the New York Rangers Sled Hockey, playing out of the Rangers' practice facility in Greenburgh, N.Y. Pauls is the youngest member of the team.
Paul's hard forecheck led to an offensive-zone turnover and Greg Shaw, of Park City, Utah, gave the U.S. a 1-0 lead at 9:00 of the first period. Veterans Taylor Chace and Joe Howard also scored for Team USA, and goalie Steve Cash, who has not been scored upon in this tournament, made 12 saves.
Pauls said the Paralympic games are "a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I'm having a blast.
"It's amazing and it all started with the spectacular opening ceremonies. What they did there was beyond belief and beyond words. Then, the tournament started and we came hard against the Koreans, we beat the Czechs and we beat Japan."
The U.S. is the reigning World Champions, having defeated Norway, 1-0, in 2009 at Ostrava, Czech Republic, when captain Andy Yohe scored with 11 seconds left in regulation.
Pauls plays right wing on a line with Shaw at center and left wing Taylor Lipsett. Lipsett had scored in every game before the semifinal and adds veteran leadership.
"Taylor is a great scorer and great puckhandler who can do some amazing moves," Pauls said. "Greg Shaw is fast and he has a great reach. He always seems to score when we need a goal. He takes big hits and he kills penalties, a great all-around player."
Pauls said sled hockey is no different than able-bodied hockey when it comes to key players, citing the goaltending.
"Steve Cash is the best in the world," Pauls said. "When we need a big save, he comes up with it. We back him up and we haven't given up too many good opportunities but as the competition gets tougher, we need to help him more and we know he is up to the challenge."
The 2010 team was made stronger when coach Ray Maluta moved Chace and Yohe back to defense last year.
"Taylor Chace is a great puckhandler and a great scorer," Pauls said. "The coaches moved him back to get the rush started and get more offense from the back end. He's a very good player who can lead us to a gold medal."
Pauls was born without tibia bones in his legs and underwent bilateral amputation at 10 months. He was 10 years old when he saw his first sled-hockey game.
"My mom found a flier that said a sled team would be playing an able-bodied team that would play on sleds," Pauls said. "We went but I didn't like it at first. Then a program (Woodbridge Spinal Rangers) opened in my area and I started with them. I started with the Youth Rangers and coach Kevin Fee. We played at the rink in the Woodbridge Community Center."
He said sled hockey has proven to be one of the best things in his life.
"As disabled people, it gives us freedom to do what we want and go as fast as we want," Pauls said. "It's a high-tempo game with lots of hitting, big goals and big saves, just like hockey and gives people a chance to see what we can do. It gives us a chance to try it out and have the time of our lives."
The National Hockey League supports the 2010 U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team through its Hockey Is For Everyone Initiative.
Other members of the team are goalie Mike Blabac, defensemen Jimmy Connelly and Nikko Landeros, and forwards Brad Emmerson, Joe Howard, Tim Jones, Adam Page, Alexi Salamone and Bubba Torres.