Moose Jaw 2023: USA beats rivals Canada to finish atop of Group A

Italy and China earn spots in the quarterfinals and secure a place in the next A-Pool Worlds after wins over Norway and Germany, respectively 01 Jun 2023
USA and Canada playing in a Para ice hockey game
USA and Canada will have byes in Moose Jaw before playing in the semi-finals on Saturday
ⒸErica Perreaux / Hockey Canada Images / WPIH
By Stuart Lieberman | For World Para Ice Hockey

Despite playing on its home ice, Canada was unable to stop the USA in the final preliminary round game of the Moose Jaw 2023 World Para Ice Hockey Championships A-Pool on Wednesday (31 May). United States defeated their arch-rivals to the north, 3-0, to finish atop Group A with an undefeated 3-0 record.

After a scoreless first period in which the US had a 10-1 advantage in shots on goal, Chicago native Brody Roybal tallied the game’s first score with 5:11 left in the second stanza on a shot from the top of the right face-off circle.

Then in the final five minutes of the third period, dual-sport athlete Jack Wallace scored his first goal of the tournament, assisted by Malik Jones and Josh Misiewicz, and Travis Dodson scored an empty net goal for his team-leading fifth tally of the tournament.

Jen Lee recorded the shutout between the pipes with nine saves, as Afghanistan war veteran Dominic Larocque turned aside 14 of 16 shots for Canada. 

“That’s as solid as an effort that we’ve had for a full 45 minutes” said US head coach David Hoff. “The ability to keep everyone involved and keep that tempo up made us really hard to play against.” 

“Regardless of the outcome, we’re proud of our team and excited about the strides we took as the game went on,” said Canadian captain Tyler McGregor. “I thought our third period was our best period, [we] competed hard and obviously have great goaltending. We started to make simple plays as the game went on and that started to generate more offensive chances. I think we carry that forward into our semifinal game and hopefully put ourselves in a position to compete for a gold.”

As the top two seeds, the US and Canada will now have byes before playing in the semi-finals on Saturday (3 June). The US is seeking a third consecutive and record-extending sixth overall world title, while Canada is aiming at its fifth world title, and the first since 2017.

Italy 3, Norway 1

Italy, host of the next Paralympic Winter Games, earned itself a spot in the quarterfinals with a 3-1 win over Norway anchored by the sharp hand of goaltender Santino Stillitano. The veteran goaltender who took up the sport after watching the Torino 2006 Games racked up 21 saves, finishing the preliminary round with a tournament-high 55 stops.

Three-time Paralympian Christoph Depaoli put Italy on the scoreboard first, finding the net on a solo breakaway less than five minutes remaining in the opening period, assisted by Stephan Kafmann and Andrea Macri. Following a scoreless second stanza, both Kafmann and Macri scored in the third, while Audun Bakke had the lone goal for Norway with a laser shot above Stillitano’s head.

Italy avoided relegation to the B-Pool and next up will challenge Czechia in the quarterfinals on Friday (2 June) as it seeks its first-ever medal at the World Championships. Norway, unable to keep its spot in the A-Pool, will face Germany for seventh place on Saturday (3 June).

China 7, Germany 0

Paralympic bronze medallists China finished the preliminary round undefeated in their A-Pool debut with a 7-0 victory over Germany, as 25-year-old Yi Feng Shen scored four of the team’s goals. 

It took Shen, “the Connor McDavid of Para ice hockey,” less than three minutes to get on the board in the opening period, picking up a pass from fellow forward Zheng Zhang before driving hard to the net with the puck. Defenseman Hang Che doubled his squad’s lead about a minute later, and Shen then struck on a power play in the final minute of the period to put China up by three at the first intermission. 

Shen scored again in both the second and third periods to reach a tournament-leading 11 goals, and Zhi Dong Wang also found the net twice to ultimately push China’s lead to seven.

Yan Zhao Ji had a perfect game between the pipes, stopping 11 shots in China’s win; he now leads all goaltenders at the event with a 95.00 save percentage. Simon Kunst had 45 saves on the day for Germany.

With the victory, China won Group B — posting a goal differential of +20 — and will now face South Korea in the quarterfinals on Friday (2 June), while Germany finished third in the group and will face Norway for seventh place on Saturday (3 June).

Moose Jaw 2023 can be watched live on the World Para Ice Hockey website and World Para Ice Hockey Facebook page with geo-block restrictions in Canada and Czechia. Complete schedule and live results are available here.