Canada and the USA will make their second consecutive Paralympic Para ice hockey final when the two teams meet at the National Indoor Stadium in Beijing on Sunday (13 March).
Canada was convincing in the first semifinal game at the National Indoor Stadium against South Korea defeating the Asian team by 11-0. USA beat China by the same score and will be defending their Paralympic gold.
Billy Bridges was exceptional in Canada's win over South Korea, scoring a hat-trick in a span of five minutes between the end of first and the start of the second period.
"Canada was a part of two Paralympic semifinals where we lost. We know how devastating that can be. It was the most important game in the last four years," said Bridges.
"I was excited to see that all 15 guys on our team felt that. They were ready to go and excited to play. We didn't care who are we going to face, we just needed to play our game. We needed to give ourselves a chance to win that gold medal."
Canada will play the US in the gold-medal game for the second time in a row. Billy Bridges was in the team that lost on overtime at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.
"We've known coming into the tournament that team USA has an excellent squad and a lot of firepower. We know that we can beat them. We have done it this year and I know we can put the puck past Jen Lee. I am excited for the game on Sunday," added the six-time Paralympian.
"We will try to do the best that we can do on a given day, that's for sure."
In the semifinal game against South Korea, Bridges scored his 50th point at the Winter Paralympics. He extended it to 52 points until the end of the game to build upon his legendary status inside the national team.
"There is a rollercoaster of emotions through the Paralympic Games no matter where you are playing. Getting that chance to play for gold is just so important. It is so exciting to get that chance, especially with so many young guys on our squad," emphasized Bridges.
"We also have a lot of veterans who have never been a part of the gold medal winning team. I want the chance to win a gold for the programme, my coach, for everybody. I know that if we play the best that we can play, we're gonna be successful."
Bridges won the gold medal at the Turin 2006 Paralympic Winter Games. It is Canada's only Para ice hockey gold to date. From the current Paralympic squad, just Greg Westlake was in the gold-medal winning team with Bridges.
The two also picked a silver in PyeongChang and bronze at Sochi 2014.
Although Bridges and Westlake have a long-lasting international experience, they do not share it with the rest of the young Canadian squad very often.
"There is not a lot that Greg and I have to say to this team. We do a lot of listening, we do a lot of following and leading at the same time to make sure to be behind coach Babey's plan. As long as we are all going in the same direction, we are going to be successful."
Team Canada had a bumpy road to the final in China, a learning process for a squad with seven debutants. After losing to USA in the first preliminary group game by 5-0, Canada defeated South Korea twice (6-0 in the group stage and 11-0 in the semifinal).
"We have some extremely good young players and they don't need to be told a lot. It was evident against South Korea that they did not have to be told how important that game was. They just knew and that's what is exciting about playing with them today," concluded Bridges.
Canada and USA will play against each other for the fifth-consecutive final in major events. Besides PyeongChang 2018, the two North American rivals faced off in three consecutive World Championships finals.
Canada won the first one in Gangneung, South Korea in 2017, while USA triumphed in Ostrava, Czech Republic in 2019 and 2021.
"It's 45 minutes of hockey, anything can happen. Weird bounces can happen. We had some of the puck luck in that first game and you know, maybe that doesn't necessarily go our way on Sunday," said Brody Roybal of Team USA.
"This is the game we wanted. We love playing against Canada, our styles match up so well, and we obviously have our history with them."
Live streaming (geo-blocked in some territories) and live results from Beijing 2022 will be available on Paralympic.org. You can follow all the action, behind the scenes and news on World Para Ice Hockey social media channels on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.