The USA will go for its record-extending third consecutive and fourth overall Paralympic gold medal after rolling over Italy 10-1 in the second Para ice hockey semi-final on Thursday (15 March) to stay undefeated at PyeongChang 2018.
The two-time defending Paralympic champions, led by Nikko Landeros’ hat-trick, allowed their first goal at the Gangneung Hockey Centre this week, but nonethelss beat Italy for the fifth time this season in as many games to advance to the final against rivals Canada.
"I think the biggest thing was shooting in the slot tonight and taking the chances when I got them," Landeros said. "This means the world to me, my family and the United States to go for another gold. But we’re treating this like we’re going for our first gold. We train and we practice for every game the way we would for the gold-medal game on Sunday."
It was 18-year-old forward Noah Grove who started off the semi-final scoring surge for the USA, netting the first of three US goals in 48 seconds. He rebounded the puck on a failed attempt by Landeros and fired it into the net after only 3:23 had ticked off the game clock.
Just 35 seconds later, former US Marine Josh Misciewicz charged to the top of the crease for his third goal of the tournament off a helper from captain Josh Pauls, and 11 seconds after that, Brody Roybal extended the US lead to three with his tournament-leading ninth goal.
A power-play goal by Landeros and a successful shot from another former US Marine, Luke McDermott, made it 5-0 in favor of the US by the end of the period.
Roybal continued to rumble with a wrap-around power-play goal midway into the second frame, followed by a score from the slot by Landeros to increase the US lead to seven. Declan Farmer tallied his ninth goal of the tournament with 2:16 remaining in the period to make it eight.
Forward Kevin McKee, who trains with Roybal in Chicago, increased the US lead 3:32 into the final period before Italy’s Valerio Corvino became the first player to score on the US in the tournament with a power-play goal. Landeros, frustrated his team was scored on, came firing back to complete his hat trick about four minutes later.
Three-time paralympic medallist Steve Cash recorded two saves in the first period to get his 12th career Paralympic win in 13 starts; he was relieved by Jen Lee who allowed one score and got one save. Goaltenders Santion Stillitano and Gabriele Araudo combined for 23 saves for Italy.
The US has now outscored its opponents 38-1 at the Gangneung Hockey Centre, with Roybal tallying 10 of those goals, one short of tying the record for most goals at a single Paralympics.
"We are super excited to be going to another gold-medal game, especially against Canada so we can get redemption from last year’s World Championships," Roybal said.
Every 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 will also be made available.