Tyler McGregor found the net with 5:33 remaining in regulation, to secure Canada a famous 2-1 victory over Paralympic and world champions USA on Wednesday (30 March), day two of the ice sledge hockey Pan Pacific Championships in Buffalo, USA.
With the victory, Canada remains the only team undefeated after two preliminary rounds of the first-ever Pan Pacifics.
In hopes of forcing overtime, the USA pulled their goaltender Steve Cash from the net with 38 seconds remaining, allowing an extra player on the ice. But Canada was able to hold off their close rivals.
“I thought we had great efforts from everybody and beating a team like that, that’s what it takes,” McGregor said.
“It feels great for sure, but there is a lot of work to do still,” he added. “We get a day off tomorrow [Thursday]. … When the time comes to play them again, we’ll be ready.”
The game was tied at 1-1 by the end of the first period. The USA’s Josh Pauls set up teammate Declan Farmer for the first goal of the match. But a holding penalty from Team USA allowed Canada’s Greg Westlake, with an assist from Billy Bridges, to even the scoreline.
A scoreless second period saw both teams having three penalties apiece, but that set up the dramatic finish. Canadian goaltender Corbin Watson defended 17 shots on goal and made 16 saves. Cash had a similar stat line (16 shots on goal, 14 saves).
“It seemed like in the second period we were hesitating a little bit in the offensive zone and in the defensive zone we had a hard time getting it [the puck] out,” Cash said. “It seemed like in the second we couldn’t gain much momentum.”
After falling to Canada on Tuesday, South Korea claimed victory on Wednesday afternoon, defeating Team Pan Pacific 4-1.
Team Pan Pacific – comprised of players from Japan and other participating countries – struck first. Mathieu Trudeau found the net just 1:26 minutes in. But back-to-back goals from Seung-Hwan Jung, followed by another goal from Young-Jae Cho opened up the match for South Korea and they never looked back; three of South Korea’s goals came from power plays.
Team Pan Pacific goaltender Kyle Huckaby defended 17 shots on goal and recorded 14 saves. South Korea’s Man-Gyun Yu stopped six shots on goal and had five saves.
All teams will have a rest day on Thursday (31 March), and resume play on Friday (1 April). Team Pan Pacific will attempt their first win against Canada at 15:00 (EDT), followed by the USA vs. South Korea at 19:00.
The medal matches will take place on Saturday (2 April).
Complete results, along with livestream of the matches, can be found at the event webpage.