PyeongChang 2018: Top 10 storylines for the gold medal game

The best stats and fun facts you need to know ahead of Canada-USA showdown 18 Mar 2018
two Para ice hockey players

Tyler McGregor (L) and Brody Roybal are battling to be top goalscorer at PyeongChang 2018

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By Stuart Lieberman | For the IPC

Here is a look at the top 10 storylines to follow during the Para ice hockey gold medal game at PyeongChang 2018 between fierce rivals Canada and USA.

1. It might be hard to believe, but Canada and the USA will be meeting for the first time in a Paralympic gold medal game. The USA will be going for its record-extending third consecutive and fourth overall title, while Canada will be going for its second and first since 2006.

2. US forward Brody Roybal, just 19 years old, has 10 goals at PyeongChang 2018 and is one score shy of tying the record for most goals in a single Paralympics. “I’m not really trying to pay attention to any of that,” Roybal said. “If I score, I score. If not, as long as we get a gold medal that’s all I care about.” Polish-American Sylvester Flis holds the current record with 11 goals at the Salt Lake City 2002 Games. Roybal’s teammate, Declan Farmer, has nine goals at this tournament and could also tie or break the mark.

3. The Korean ice has been more than kind to Canadian forward Tyler McGregor, a 24-year-old cancer survivor who leads his team with eight goals. McGregor first played in South Korea at the 2013 World Para Ice Hockey Championships, helping Canada win its first world title in five years. At the 2017 World Para Ice Hockey Championships, which also served as the PyeongChang 2018 Test Event, he helped Canada win another world title with a team-leading 12 goals, including two in the final against the USA.

4. This will be the 91st meeting in history between the two teams. Canada owns a winning record of 46-8-9-26-1 (Win- Overtime Win - Overtime Loss - Tie) between the two.

5. It has been exactly 37 days since Canada and the US last played. Canada came out on top, winning 3-0 in the second game of the 2018 Border Series, ending the USA’s 10-game winning streak and handing the Americans their first loss of the season.

6. Three players still remain from the Canadian squad that won a Paralympic gold at the Torino 2006 Games: Greg Westlake, Billy Bridges and Brad Bowden. As the team captain, Westlake has been through all the highs and lows, and heading into the final insists this is the strongest team Canada has ever had. “We are a deeper team now that can roll two or three lines,” he said. “That bodes well going into a gold-medal game because you can’t rely on one or two guys, you need a whole team of guys who believe in themselves and each other.”

7. Never underestimate veteran defenceman and assist machines Adam Dixon of Canada and Josh Pauls of the USA, who lead their teams with eight and seven assists, respectively. Pauls serves as the US team captain and goes by the nickname “Spuds” because of his unique ritual of facing a Mr. Potato Head figure toward the opponents’ locker room before every game. Dixon, who also works as an electrical engineer, has twice been tabbed Best Defenceman at the World Championships. “This is definitely the biggest game of my life,” Dixon said. “I am more excited than nervous.”

8. Both teams have put on a slew of impressive shutout performances at the Gangneung Hockey Centre. Canada has outscored its opponents 42-0 and the USA has outscored its opponents 38-1. Cobrin Watson and Dominic Larocque have split the goaltending duties for Canada thus far, tallying six and seven saves, respectively, without allowing a single goal. Playing in his fourth Paralympics, Steve Cash has held down the fort for the USA with a perfect save percentage as well. Cash has won 12 of his 13 career Paralympic starts and holds a 10-1 record this season.

9. Seven players in the gold medal game have served in the armed forces. From Canada, goaltender Larocque was a corporal with the Canadian Forces, finding Para ice hockey through the Soldier On programme after losing his leg in an explosion in Afghanistan. Six US team members have military backgrounds, including former US Marines Ralph DeQuebec, Travis Dodson, Luke McDermott and Josh Misiewicz, along with US Army veterans Rico Roman and Jen Lee. Misiewicz, making his Paralympic debut seven years after losing both his legs in an explosion in Afghanistan, already has three goals in the tournament.

10. The entire USA squad spent January to March together in Chicago to live and train together as a team – a first in the programme’s history ahead of a Paralympic Winter Games, and a strategy that has showed it works. Ahead of the gold medal game, US players already received a good luck shout out from the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks to their 2.5 million Twitter followers.

The final day of competition as well as the Closing Ceremony can be watched live right here on the International Paralympic Committee’s website. Highlights of each day’s action are also available.