“It wasn’t exactly the result we were expecting here, but we were glad to get a win today.”
Host nation Norway highlighted the day on Saturday (31 March) at the 2012 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships, garnering fifth place in the event in Hamar after defeating Italy, 5-0.
Helge Bjornstad struck first for the speedy Norwegians in the fifth-place game, scoring on a power play off an assist from Rolf Pedersen at the 4:26 mark in the first period. That was quickly followed by a score from teammate Stig Tore Svee close to the net to make it 2-0 early in favor of the home team.
Audun Bakke then made it look easy, netting two straight goals in the second period to give Norway a comfortable 4-0 advantage. Veteran Eskil Hagen capped it off with an unassisted score in the final period.
Despite the win, it was the first time ever that Norway did not medal at the World Championships since the event began in 1996.
“It wasn’t exactly the result we were expecting here, but we were glad to get a win today,” Hagen said. “It felt really good.”
Bjornstad finished as the top scorer for Norway in the tournament with four goals, and Pedersen finished with five assists.
Italy goes home in sixth place, and was led by Florian Planker and Andrea Chiarotti.
In the day’s first game, Japan shut down Estonia to grab the seventh place spot by a score of 5-0.
Estonia just could not keep up with Japan’s speed on the ice, as five different Japanese players found the net and Mitsuru Nagase saved all 12 shots on goal.
Mikio Annaka opened up the scoring for Japan, netting a shot just five minutes into the game off a pass from Toshiyuki Nakamura. Another five minutes later, Kazuhiro Takahashi scored, assisted by Masaharu Kumagai.
Satoru Sudo and Daisuke Uehara both put points on the board in the first five minutes of the second period, and Takayuki Endo tacked on another goal in the third period to help Japan leave the Championships with a victory.
Nagase played the entirety of all Japan’s five games at the Championships, saving 85 per cent of shots on goal by its opponents.
Uehara and Takahashi led the team in scoring with two goals and two assists in the tournament apiece.
Valeri Falkenberg saved 87 per cent of shots on goal for Estonia in the event, yet the team scored just two goals all week – one by Ivar Liiv and one by Kaido Kalm.
As Japan and Estonia were the last two finishers at the Championships, both will be delegated to the B Pool for the 2012-13 season per IPC Ice Sledge Hockey rules.
“We wanted to finish at least fourth, but we finished seventh,” Nagase said. “It’s a very difficult feeling now.”
However, Nagase does see one positive from the result – the further development of other Ice Sledge Hockey programmes that now have the chance to medal on the international stage for the first time.
“Czech Republic and Korea, they’ve developed so much since Vancouver two years ago,” Nagase said.
Sunday’s (1 April) action will begin at 12:30 (CEST) with the bronze-medal game between Canada and the Czech Republic, and it will be followed by the gold-medal match between Korea and USA at 16:00.