The Para ice hockey tournament at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games had all the drama, including blood, sweat and tears. Here’s a look at the top five moments in the sport at these Games:
Playing in his second Paralympics at just 20 years old, Princeton University student Declan Farmer played the role of the hero – twice - for the USA in the PyeongChang 2018 gold-medal game against arch rivals Canada. First, with the USA down by one, Farmer scored with 37.8 seconds left in regulation off a pass from 19-year-old forward Brody Roybal to force a sudden-death overtime period. Then, 3:30 into overtime, Farmer sliced the puck between two defenders and into the net to give the Americans their record-extending third consecutive and fourth overall Paralympic title in Para ice hockey with a thrilling 2-1 victory. Farmer’s gold-medal winning score also tied him for most goals by one player at a single Paralympics; Sylvester Flis also had 11 goals for the USA at the Salt Lake City 2002 Games.
Cash finally beaten
Five-time Paralympian Billy Bridges, a member of Canada’s title-winning team at the Torino 2006 Games, broke open the scoring in the gold-medal game against the USA with just 2:54 left in the first period, sending a slap shot right past Steve Cash’s head for his 10th point of the tournament. With the goal, Canada recorded its tournament-high 43rd goal at PyeongChang 2018 and became just the second team to score on Cash in the last three Paralympics and only team to do so at these Games.
Medal magic for hosts
South Korea spent nearly the last decade building up its Para ice hockey programme for its home Paralympics, and everything came to fruition when it won a historic bronze – its first-ever Paralympic medal in the sport – with a nail-biting 1-0 victory over Italy. The game remained scoreless with just 3:18 remaining when star speedy forward Seung-Hwan Jung retrieved the puck from behind the net and whipped it around into the front of the crease, where it tipped off Dong-Shing Jang’s stick and through the goal line for what would stand to be the game-winner after undergoing an official review. The crowd at the Gangneung Hockey Centre, which included South Korea’s President Jae-in Moon and First Lady Jung-sook Kim, let out an electrifying standing ovation for the team twice – first after scoring the goal and second after fending off Italy’s last-second shot attempts before the final buzzer sounded.
The very first game of the PyeongChang 2018 tournament did not disappoint, as Italy stunned Norway, 3-2, in a penalty shooout. The game-winning goal was the first career Paralympic goal for 20-year-old Nils Larch, and the victory marked Italy’s second win in preliminary round history at the Paralympics. The win would go on to carry even more significance, propelling Italy to its first semi-finals appearance and a best-ever fourth-place finish.
Norway’s preliminary round win against Sweden was a landmark game, as Lena Schroeder made her Paralympic debut to become the first woman since 1994 to compete in Para ice hockey at the Games. Schroeder, who began playing the sport at age 15 in 2008, took to the ice as the first female player since her compatriot Bri Mjaasund Oejen did so at the Lillehammer 1994 Games.
The official website for PyeongChang 2018 can be found here.