“I wouldn't say that we were much stronger than the Americans, they had many moments. If you take them individually, they're fast. They have a high start speed. They are more experienced.”
The semi-finals are set after a wild day of ice sledge hockey on Tuesday (11 March) at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games and will feature two marquee matchups in Canada-USA and Norway-Russia two days from now.
Russia booked their ticket to the semi-finals by defeating the defending Paralympic champions USA, 2-1, in front of a near capacity crowd at Shayba Arena.
The USA applied a ton of pressure throughout the first period, outshooting Russia 11-4, but it was the Russians that left the period with the lead.
After the USA got into some penalty trouble, Ilia Volkov scored his second goal of the Paralympics on the power-play to put Russia up 1-0.
The score also ended American goaltender Steve Cash’s shutout streak, which finished at over 313 minute of play.
Russia were able to limit the USA’s scoring chances in the second by playing good defensive hockey, and it paid off. Just over two minutes into the middle frame, Konstantin Shikhov got credit for a goal that deflected off a USA defender and into the net and it was 2-0.
Just under five minutes into the third period, Adam Page would bang home his third goal of the tournament and the USA was within one.
Russia, on the strength of their loud fans and solid goaltending by Vladimir Kamantcev, who made 22 saves, held on to secure first place in Group B.
“He just made miracles,” forward Konstantin Shikhov said of his goaltender.
Despite the win, defenceman Vadim Selyukin was staying humble after the game.
“I wouldn't say that we were much stronger than the Americans, they had many moments,” Selyukin said. “If you take them individually, they're fast. They have a high start speed. They are more experienced.”
Another upset on the day came right off the bat when Italy defeated South Korea, 2-1.
South Korea entered the day in need of a win to secure them a spot in the medal rounds, but Italy came out strong.
At the 9:55 mark of the first period, Andrea Marci notched his first goal of the Paralympics, beating South Korea’s Man-Gyun Yu.
After a scoreless second period, Seung-Hwan Jung would tie things up at one, scoring unassisted.
Italy would answer right back 47 seconds later with Planker getting his second goal of the tournament and that would be all the offence that the Italians needed for their first win of the Games.
“If we play like this it doesn't matter who we play. Of course, we will aim for fifth place,” Planker said.
Canada’s strong defensive play all tournament long was showcased in the night game, as they defeated the Czech Republic 1-0 to finish in first place in Group A.
After a scoreless first period, Canada’s offence turned it on in the second, outshooting the Czechs 8-2. They finally found a break in the opposing team’s defence when Billy Bridges connected with captain Greg Westlake in front of the net, who sent a shot top corner on Michal Vapenka.
The Czech Republic would pressure in the third, but some great saves by Canada’s starting goaltender Corbin Watson shut the door. Watson ended the game by making seven saves for his second shutout of the tournament.
The Czechs needed a win in order to advance to the medal rounds, but instead will play in Wednesday’s (12 March) classification game against the South Koreans.
Norway clinched their spot in the medal rounds with a 2-0 win against Sweden earlier on Day 4.
After a scoreless first period, Magnus Bogle took a loose puck behind the net and wrapped it around and past Swedish goaltender Ulf Nilsson.
The score would remain that way until the 4:35 mark of the third period when Audun Bakke launched a great shot from the hashmarks that went top shelf and extended the lead to 2-0.
Despite a big push by Sweden in the dying minutes, Norway, on the strength of some great defensive plays, held on.
Kristian Buen recorded his first shutout at the Paralympics and now has a tournament save percentage of 90.20.