The USA beat Canada for the fifth time in the rivals’ last six meetings in a game packed with physicality on Monday (17 April), in the preliminary round of the 2017 World Para Ice Hockey Championships A-Pool in Gangneung, South Korea.
Playing in his 10th season, US goaltender Steve Cash starred for the defending Paralympic and world champions, recording 11 saves in the 2-1 win to keep his team undefeated in the tournament through four games.
“It was just about focusing and not having too many peaks or valleys, and just having confidence that the guys were going to keep the shots to the outside,” Cash said of having to fend off a pair of shots in the closing minutes of the final period.
“The first period didn’t really resemble USA Hockey’s style of play, but we picked it up in the second period. Moving forward, if we play like we did in the second and third period, we’ll be alright.”
The game’s opening frame showcased a physical brand of North American hockey full of big hits on the defensive line from the likes of the USA’s Josh Pauls and Canada’s Adam Dixon. Both sides shut each other down hard until Canada’s alternate captain Tyler McGregor jumped on a rebound in the slot unchecked with 1:31 remaining in the period to score the first goal.
Defender Nikko Landeros, playing in his fourth World Championships, put the USA on the board with 8:54 left in the second period, scoring on the power play. It was the first goal Canada allowed in the tournament – it had been outscoring its opponents 36-0 – ending its shutout streak at just over 206 minutes.
US forward Declan Farmer responded about two minutes later. He took a pass from Kevin McKee in the neutral zone, split two defenders and gave the No. 1-seeded US team the go-ahead goal.
The two teams shut each other down again in the third period, as McGregor and Greg Westlake both failed to convert for Canada on their two shot attempts.
Dominic Larocque finished the day with six saves for Canada, the reigning world silver medallists.
The USA is now tied with Canada atop the tournament standings with 12 points, despite having played one less game.
South Korea 6, Sweden 0
The host nation won its third game of the tournament by defeating Sweden, 6-0, behind the hot hands of speedy forward Seung-Hwan Jung, who became the third player to register a hat-trick at the Gangneung Hockey Centre.
“Our entire team has been having a great attitude this tournament, so that’s helped us stay positive and score,” Jung said. “This Test Event is also a Test Event for our team. Our first goal at this event is to get any kind of medal, but our ultimate goal at the Paralympics next year is getting to that final game.”
Jong-Ho Jang, a member of the South Korean national team since 2006, opened up the game’s scoring 9:42 into the first period off a pass from Jung to get the early 1-0 lead.
Jung then put the home team up by two just five minutes into the second period – his first attempt was no good, but 10 seconds later he shot again and the puck flew right in. Defender Young-Sung Kim followed suit with his first goal of the tournament to extend the squad’s lead to three heading into the final frame.
Within three minutes of the third period starting, Jung scored again and Ju-Seung Lee notched his first point of the tournament with a goal. Two minutes later, Jung scored his team-leading fifth goal at these World Championships to complete the hat-trick.
Jaewoong Lee and Man-Gyun Yu split the duties in net for South Korea with four and two saves, respectively. Ulf Nilson and Andreas Neuman exchanged places for Sweden between the pipes with 21 and two saves, respectively.
South Korea now sits comfortably in third place in the standings with nine points over four games.
Italy 5, Germany 0
Earlier in the day, Italy shut out Germany, 5-0, as star forward Sandro Kalegaris and 19-year-old Nils Larch both scored twice to vault Italy to fourth place in the tournament standings with six points.
“It was a great game and a nice result, but it wasn’t that easy to pull off,” Larch said. “We’re so happy we were able to pull it off and get another three points in the standings.”
Two-time Paralympian Gianluigi Rosa struck first for Italy in the game, finding the net 3:36 into the contest off a pass from Larch to register his first goal of the event. Then with 6.9 seconds remaining in the first period, Kalegaris ripped an emphatic wrist shot just past the pipe for a score, assisted by Greg Leperdi and Valerio Corvino.
Larch connected for a score midway through the second stanza and then again halfway through the third period, with his second goal coming off a pass from another 19-year-old, Christoph Depaoli.
Kalegaris finished off the scoring for Italy just over five minutes later, connecting for his team-leading fourth goal of the tournament with a helper from Leperdi.
Italy’s Gabriele Araudo, a 2011 European champion, stopped all 13 shots that came his way to record the shutout, while Germany’s Simon Kunst racked up 22 saves on the day.
Frank Rennhack, who has been competing in Germany’s domestic league since he was 12, led the German effort with four shots on goal.
The 2017 World Para Ice Hockey Championships are taking place from 11-20 April in Gangneung, South Korea, which is the ice sports venue city for the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games. The tournament also serves as the Paralympic Test Event, with the top five finishers automatically qualifying for the PyeongChang 2018 Games.
All games from the 2017 World Para Ice Hockey Championships are being streamed live at www.Gangneung2017.com, and live statistics and results are available at www.paralympic.org/gangneung-2017/schedule-results.
Photos will be made available for media to download throughout the tournament on the IPC’s Flickr account.