Italy is the new European Champions in International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Ice Sledge Hockey after causing two major upsets in Solleftea, Sweden at the weekend.
Tipped by a minority as outsiders, and at best a medal hope before the Championships, the Italians who finished second in Group B produced a huge shock on Saturday in the semi-finals by defeating hot favourities Norway 2:1.
After scoring 44 goals and conceding just three in winning Group A many predicted it was just a formality for Norway to win the gold medal. However, the Italians had other ideas and despite falling one goal behind after six minutes fought back with goals from Florian Planker and Andrea Chiarotti to secure a famous victory.
In the final Italy met the Czech Republic, who they had lost 3:0 to in finishing second in Group B. The Czechs had secured their place in the final courtesy of a 1:0 victory over Estonia.
Buoyed on by their defeat of Norway, Italy took a first period lead in the final with Gregory Leperdi the scorer.
The second period was stalemate although Italy’s goalkeeper Santino Stillitano was having a fine game producing a number of superb saves.
With the Czechs chasing the game in the final period Italy hit them with a sucker punch through the team’s top scorer Florian Planks.
His goal secured Italy a stunning 2:0 victory and the European title, an amazing feat considering the country only started playing the sport in time for the Torino 2006 Paralympic Winter Games.
In the bronze medal match, Norway bounced back from their shock semi-final defeat to thrash Estonia 4:0.
1. Italy Gold medal
2. Czech Republic Silver medal
3. Norway Bronze medal
8. Great Britain