Ostrava 2019: Final showdown set

USA and Canada clash for fourth consecutive time 04 May 2019
By Stuart Lieberman | For World Para Ice Hockey

“It was the biggest crowd myself and a lot of other teammates have played in front of, and the energy in there was absolutely amazing. They come out firing and got the first one, and we really needed to come back and answer with our own energy and we did. It was unreal.”

Canada and USA have advanced to the gold-medal game at the 2019 World Para Ice Hockey Championships in Ostrava, Czech Republic, and will be playing each other in the final for the fourth consecutive time on Saturday.

Canada are the reigning world champions with a record four world titles overall, while the USA are the reigning Paralympic champions with three world titles to their name.

The tournament’s host nation, the Czech Republic, will face South Korea in the bronze-medal game and will be looking for their first-ever World Championship medal.

USA 10-2 Czech Republic

The USA were able to overcome a sold-out crowd of 8,600 spectators cheering for host nation Czech Republic in their semi-final with a 10-2 victory on Friday, as Jack Wallace played up to his role as a rising star on the team with a whopping five goals.

“It was the biggest crowd myself and a lot of other teammates have played in front of, and the energy in there was absolutely amazing,” Wallace said. “They come out firing and got the first one, and we really needed to come back and answer with our own energy and we did. It was unreal.”

It was Czech captain Michal Geier who started off the night by electrifying his home crowd for the seventh time this week with a score 3:10 into the game. But the USA bounced back quickly with goals by Wallace and Luke McDermott in a span of 33 seconds to put themselves on top 8:26 into the first frame. Declan Farmer closed out the period with a goal in the final minute to give the USA a two-goal advantage at the first break.

The USA put on a show in the second period with seven goals, as Wallace netted another three, and Brody Roybal, Josh Pauls and Farmer all found the net. Czech rookie Miroslav Novotny scored his second World Championship goal in as many games to keep the fans engaged during the period.

Steve Cash played all 45 minutes in net with six saves, while Martin Kudela recorded 16 saves for the Czechs in the first two periods before Michal Vapenka took over the goaltending duties in the last period.

Canada 10-0 South Korea

Canada advanced to their fourth-consecutive World Championship final by defeating South Korea, 10-0, behind four goals from 21-year-old defender Liam Hickey. The Canadians are now guaranteed their ninth World Championship podium finish.

“It feels really good and it’s obviously what we wanted coming into this tournament,” Hickey said. “The team was rolling; all shifts that were going out there were going out hard.”

Hickey opened the floodgates exactly six minutes into the game when he traveled down the ice with the puck, past the blue line and flipped it in for a score. Thirty-seven seconds later, the puck bounced off Rob Armstrong’s stick and into the goal after a face-off, doubling the Canadians’ lead. Hickey would score again before the first intermission, as would former able-bodied ice hockey player Dom Cozzolino.

In the second stanza, Hickey struck for the third time, while captain Tyler McGregor netted his fifth and sixth scores of the tournament. Billy Bridges also scored off a pass from McGregor, tallying his fourth goal at the event just a week after his mother passed away.

Hickey completed his scoring surge 6:37 into the final period, and 22-year-old Zach Lavin finished it off with his third goal of the tournament for Canada.

Dominic Larocque of Canada recorded the shutout in the net with a trio of saves, as Man-Gyun Yu had 14 saves on the day for South Korea.

Norway 1-0 Italy

Norway captured their first win in Ostrava in their final game, with a thrilling 1-0 victory against Italy in overtime. Assistant captain Morten Varenes, a four-time Paralympian, scored the game-winner 2:11 into the extra period off a pass from Magnus Bogle.

Norway have now finished in the top five in nine of their 10 World Championship appearances.

“We obviously wanted to be in the semi-finals but while that didn’t happen we grabbed fifth place and made our time here count,” Varenes said. “The audience has been great with all the spectators. I would have never imagined nearly 10,000 spectators in the arena during our games. It’s been incredible.”

Italy outshot Norway on the day, but it was Norway’s Johan Groeline who recorded the shutout between the pipes with 15 saves, while Italy’s Santino Stillitano stopped 11 shots.

You can catch live coverage and results on the Ostrava 2019 website.