Canada, USA, Italy and South Korea take on World Sledge Hockey Challenge03 Dec 2017
US Para ice hockey captain Josh Pauls
Before the puck drops at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, four of the top Para ice hockey teams will clash in Charlottetown, Canada, for the 2017 World Sledge Hockey Challenge.
The four-team competition begins Sunday (3 December), featuring defending world champions Canada and their cross-regional rival the USA – both the heavy Paralympic finals favourites.
“We’re always looking to win every time we play, whether it’s a game or a tournament,” said the US team captain Josh Pauls. “Obviously, the Paralympics are the end goal but momentum can carry from these tournaments throughout the year and we’re looking to build chemistry.”
The two North American teams battled for the gold medal at the 2017 World Para Ice Hockey Championships back in April, and the USA’s Declan Farmer said this upcoming competition is an opportunity to put the past behind them.
“It’s the start of another season – and with this year being a Paralympic year -- we’re really excited to get back on the ice and play some international games,” Farmer said. “What happened last season is over, so we’ll just take what we learned and make sure to focus on what we can control this season.”
The World Sledge Hockey Challenge will enter its second straight year and is one of the major international competitions for teams ahead of PyeongChang 2018. Italy and South Korea will also make up the field in Charlottetown.
“It will be a big test,” Italy’s Gianluigi Rosa said. “But the goal is to make some good matches and make some more experience to the new players on our team. We know it’ll be a really tough game because USA and Canada are really physical teams. The goal is to make a good position.”
Italy finished fifth at the World Championships, which also acted as the Test Event for March’s Paralympic Winter Games. Despite the fifth-place finish behind Norway and Worlds bronze medallists South Korea, Rosa is confident Italy is in the mix of their first Paralympic podium finish.
“There is not a big gap between [the third to fifth-seeded] teams,” Rosa said. “We were looking for the podium [in Gangneung, South Korea]. … Maybe South Korea is still growing. They have been getting better over the last years. Probably at the Paralympics Games they’ll be better in the last years.”
More information on the 2017 World Sledge Hockey Challenge, including live stream, can be found on Hockey Canada's website.