Italy made history at the Gangneung Hockey Centre on Monday (12 March) as they beat Sweden 2-0 to end second behind world champions Canada in Group A and reach the Para ice hockey semi-finals for the first time at a Paralympic Winter Games.
The winning team maintained control of the puck for most of the first period, but it was not until the end that Sandro Kalegaris, who competed for Austria until 2014 when he switched to Italy, scored his second goal in the tournament to put them up 1-0.
The second period seemed like an extension of the first, with the Italians dominating and Sweden playing defence. The latter did not even have one single shot on goal during those 15 minutes and only one over the first half hour of play. It was also a penalty-heavy game, with nine in total.
In the first 10 minutes of the final period, Italy had three shots on goal but could not convert until former Para alpine skier Gianluigi Rosa smacked the puck into the right side of the goal defended by goalkeeper Ulf Nilsson to increase the margin at 39:36 and round off the 2-0 victory.
Despite the defeat, Sweden responded with a much better performance after allowing a record 17 goals to Canada on their first game in PyeongChang.
Kalegaris said: “It was a hard game, they played very good in the defence but we made it. Now we should keep it up. The next two days we will do recovering and training, and we will see what happens in the semi-finals. Being part of history makes me feel proud.”
The Italian team has consistently been improving, having previously finished eighth at Turin 2006, seventh at Vancouver 2010 and sixth at Sochi 2014. At PyeongChang 2018 they will reach at least fourth place.
First Winter Paralympic gold medallists Sweden will not be able to fight for the medals once more. Their last time on the podium was at Salt Lake City 2002, when they claimed bronze.
Italy will play the semi-finals on Thursday (15 March) against Group B´s winner, which will be decided on Tuesday (13 March) when defending champions USA play hosts South Korea. Sweden will face Norway next hoping to achieve their first win in the tournament.
Tickets for PyeongChang 2018 can be purchased here.
Every competition as well as the Closing Ceremony can be watched live right here on the International Paralympic Committee’s website. Paralympic.org Highlights of each day’s action will also be made available.