Canada and USA booked the tickets to the Beijing 2022 Para ice hockey tournament final on Friday (11 March). The PyeongChang 2018 finallists will meet again on Sunday (13) at the National Indoor Stadium in the Chinese capital.
The day also reserved an entertaining fifth-place game between the Czech Republic and Italy.
DISMANTLING THE HOSTS
Having watched an increasingly confident Canada produce their best hockey of the tournament so far to demolish South Korea 11-0 in the opening semifinal, the USA responded in style.
The biggest crowd of the tournament so far was treated to a real show, albeit not the one they were hoping for, with the 2021 and 2019 world champions dismantling the previously undefeated China 11-0.
Setting a pace even the competition's surprise package could not live with, Declan Farmer and Brody Roybal combined three times in the first period to set the USA on their way, the latter scoring a hat-trick.
"I's always a great time playing with Declan, he's an incredible player," said Roybal. "He's just so smart out on the ice and he creates incredible opportunities for whoever is out there playing with him."
After assisting to his teammate Roybal three times in the first period, Farmer got onto the scoreboard two times in the remainder of the game.
"That first period was really something else. They came out, they have some really good players. They are a new country, they've never played us before," explained Farmer and continued to talk about today's opponent.
"They had some good scoring chances, we were able to defend well against them."
Joshua Misiewicz scored two with Malik Jones, Joseph Woodke and captain Josh Pauls rounding up the perfect night for USA. Roybal scored once in the third period to make it four goals in the semifinal.
USA will now face Canada in the final like they did four years ago in PyeongChang.
"It's 45 minutes of hockey, anything can happen. Weird bounces can happen. We had some of the puck luck in that first game and you know maybe that doesn't necessarily go our way on Sunday," concluded Farmer.
So far the USA have scored 25 goals and conceded just one - a run that includes an opening 5-0 group-game victory over Canada.
McGREGOR AND BRIDGES SHINE
After playing their preliminary round game on Tuesday (8 March), Canada and South Korea met again on Friday in the first semifinal game of the day.
Canada won the Group A game by 6-0 and secured a direct qualification to the semifinal, while South Korea had to play a qualifying final against Italy on Wednesday. The bronze medallists from PyeongChang 2018 won 4-0 and secured their second Paralympic semifinal in a row.
Although a much better performance was expected from South Korea in the semifinal, they suffered an even bigger defeat.
Canada triumphed 11-0 and qualified for its second consecutive final against defending champions USA.
"We’ve got a lot of young guys here and this is their first Paralympic Games. They get that opportunity to play in the gold-medal game in their first Games, that is exciting," said Liam Hickey who opened the scoring for Canada against South Korea.
Veteran Billy Bridges and captain Tyler McGregor took over from Hickey and scored five consecutive goals in a span of five minutes during the end of first and the start of the second period.
Bridges got on the scoreboard three times and secured the 52nd point in his Paralympic career. The 37-year-old is playing in his sixth Winter Paralympics and is the only player on the current roster, besides Greg Westlake, who has won the Paralympic gold medal at the Turin 2006 Paralympic Winter Games.
Westlake scored for 7-0 to end the second period with Anton Jacobs-Webb and Garrett Riley getting their first goals in the third period.
Tyler McGregor, who is celebrating his 28th birthday on Friday, scored two more in the third period to finish the game with four goals. He added two assists to his tally.
"It was a pretty good team performance, we did a good job sharing the puck," said Adam Dixon who got three assists in the game.
OVERTIME WIN FOR ITALY
Canada will play in the final for the fourth time in its Para ice hockey history. So far, Canadians won one gold in Turin and two silvers, at Nagano 1998 and PyeongChang 2018.
In the fifth-place game, Italy defeated the Czech Republic by 4-3 after an overtime goal by Christoph Depaoli.
Following a calm game in the first 30 minutes, Miroslav Novotny opened the scoring in the third period with a successful penalty shot. Gianluigi Rosa equalised with 10 minutes to go, but Michal Geier gave the Czechs a new lead with less than minute to go.
With only 10 seconds to go, Italy won the faceoff in the opponents third with Andrea Macri finding himself alone and scoring a long-range goal to take the game to overtime.
Italy was the better team and capitalised on it with Christpoh Depaoli's goal six minutes into the overtime.
China and South Korea will meet on Saturday (12) in the bronze medal game with the host nation playing for its first-ever Para ice hockey medal while the Koreans will be defending the third place finish from PyeongChang 2018.
Live streaming (geo-blocked in some territories) and live results from Beijing 2022 will be available on Paralympic.org. You can follow all the action, behind the scenes and news on World Para Ice Hockey social media channels on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.