Both South Korea and Italy will play in the Paralympic semi-finals for the first time on Thursday (15 March), taking on world champions Canada and Paralympic champions USA, respectively, at the Gangneung Hockey Centre.
The PyeongChang 2018 host nation has already guaranteed its best-ever finish in Para ice hockey, having previously finished no better than sixth place.
Known as both “Rocket Man” and “Messi on Ice,” forward Seung-Hwan Jung has been one of the promotional faces of these Paralympics leading up to the Games in South Korea, and he currently ranks first on his team with three goals and two assists through three games.
But the biggest task remains – seizing a medal.
“The two games ahead of us are very important, so I think this is just the beginning,” Jung said. “I hope our team works together to take down Canada and move on to the final.”
World champions Canada have yet to concede a goal in the tournament, outscoring its opponents 35-0 in the preliminary round.
Cancer survivor Tyler McGregor, who celebrated his 24th birthday earlier this week, has been unstoppable. With a team-leading eight goals, he has not skipped a beat on this ice, continuing his performance from last year’s World Championships, at which he tied for the tournament lead with 12 goals at the same venue.
Goaltenders Corbin Watson and Dominic Larocque, both competing in their second Paralympics, have combined for three consecutive shutouts. They’ll look to continue their consistent play in the hope of leading Canada to its fifth Para ice hockey medal since the sport was added to the Paralympic programme in 1994.
In the evening semi-final, Italy will attempt to become the first team at these Paralympics to shut down the power duo of Brody Roybal and Declan Farmer and try to score past four-time Paralympic goaltender Steve Cash. Both US forwards have lit up the scoreboard with a tournament-leading eight goals apiece, while Cash, a former ESPY Award winner, has not allowed a single goal in the two games he has played.
“The last few games have been awesome and the team has been firing on all cylinders,” Cash said. “The fans here have been great. As soon as we get out there on the ice we can feed off their energy and soak in the experience. To have that has been so beneficial for us.
“Also, having those two months training together in Chicago in a central location before coming here was extremely helpful for these Games. The key for us now will be not getting into bad habits against Italy.”
The USA has outscored its opponents 28-0 and is looking to win its record third consecutive gold in the sport, while Italy, the European silver medallists, is in search of its first medal on the Paralympic level. Defenceman Gianluigi Rosa and forward Sandro Kalegaris both have two goals in the tournament and will need to step in up another notch to pull the upset and become just the second team to score on Cash in his last three Paralympics.
Every competition as well as the Opening and Closing Ceremonies can be watched live right here on the International Paralympic Committee’s website. Highlights of each day’s action will also be made available.