Hosts Canada suffered their first ever preliminary round defeat at the 2015 World Sledge Hockey Challenge in Leduc on Wednesday (4 February), losing to Paralympic champions the USA.
The win for the US means they will face South Korea in Thursday’s (5 February) first semi-final (2pm MT) at the Leduc Recreation Centre, while Canada will take on Russia in the late game (7pm MT).
USA v Canada: 2-0
Nikko Landeros supplied the offence, Steve Cash made the saves and the United States claimed first place in the preliminary round, beating Canada’s National Sledge Team 2-0 in the round-robin finale.
Landeros scored with a pair of wrist shots from the point, while Declan Farmer added two assists. Cash made 13 saves to record his second consecutive shutout of the Canadians; the US goaltender turned away all 11 shots he faced in a 3-0 USA win in a semifinal at Sochi 2014.
A back-and-forth game looked to be headed to the first intermission scoreless before Landeros let go a shot from just inside the blue-line that found its way over the glove of Canadian netminder Corbin Watson with just 1:12 left in the opening period.
Canada struggled to get its offence going, managing just eight shots in the first two periods and rarely testing Cash.
Landeros added insurance just past the midway point of the third period; after Watson chose not to freeze the puck, the US defenceman took a pass from Farmer and snuck a low, off-speed shot just inside the post.
The Canadians could not get one back, losing for just the fourth time in 26 games, dating back to April 2013. Canada lost a preliminary round game at the World Sledge Hockey Challenge for the first time ever; it was 23-0 entering the game and 32-2 overall, with its only two previous defeats coming to the US in the gold medal game in 2009 and 2012.
Russia V South Korea: 4-1
Dmitriy Lisov led a balanced offence with a goal and an assist, helping Russia to its first victory at the 2015 World Sledge Hockey Challenge, 4-1 over South Korea.
The Russians closed out the preliminary round by beating South Korea for the second year in a row, and will face the loser of Wednesday night’s Canada-United States game in Thursday’s semifinals.
Vadim Selyukin, Sergey Panfilov and Alexey Amosov had the other goals for Russia, which got points from eight different players. Vasily Varlakov and Ilia Volkov added two assists apiece.
Young-Jae Cho was the lone South Korean goal scorer. Russia dictated play in the opening period, outshooting Korea 7-2, but the game headed to the first intermission scoreless thanks to South Korean goaltender Man-Gyun Yu, whose best save came midway through the period when he sprawled across the net to rob Panfilov.
The Russians finally got to Yu four minutes into the second period; Lisov picked up the puck to the right of the South Korean net and circled to the face-off dot before snapping a quick shot to the short side for the 1-0 goal.
Selyukin made it a two-goal game at 8:28, keeping on a two-on-none and beating Yu high to the glove side. South Korea cut its deficit in half at 12:04 when Cho’s point shot made its way through traffic and past Russian goaltender Evgeny Plotnikov, but Panfilov one-timed a feed from Lisov on a Russian power play just 1:12 later to push the lead back to two after two periods.
Amosov capped the scoring early in the third with a beautiful behind-the-back tip of a Vladimir Litvinenko point shot. Russia had a definitive advantage in shots on goal, 25-10.
The South Koreans, who were outscored 20-2 in three preliminary round losses, will play the Canada-US winner in a Thursday semifinal.
The gold medal game will air on TSN/RDS, the official broadcasters of Hockey Canada.
Games can also be followed on Facebook and Twitter.
The 2015 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships A-Pool will feature reigning champions Canada, the USA, Russia, Italy, Germany, the Czech Republic, Norway and Japan, in Buffalo, New York, USA.
The B-Pool equivalent runs from 15-21 March and will feature South Korea, Great Britain, Slovakia, Poland, newly qualified Austria and the host nation Sweden.