“We saw they were getting more and more tired, and we had more power, more strength left, so I always knew we could take them.”
Norway was victorious against Italy in an exhilarating 2-1 decision that came down to a penalty shoot-out in the fifth-place game of the 2013 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships A-Pool on Friday (19 April) in Goyang, Korea.
Norway’s assistant captain Morten Vaernes was the lone player to stick the puck to the net in the shoot-out, easily making himself the hero of the Championships for his team.
The goal by No. 9 means Norway will join Canada, Czech Republic, Russia and the USA at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, along with three other teams that will be determined later this year at the Paralympic Qualification Tournament.
“We saw they were getting more and more tired, and we had more power, more strength left, so I always knew we could take them,” Vaernes said of Italy.
“And we had the best goalie and the best shooters, so I was pretty confident that we would take it.”
Vaernes is right in that just as much credit goes to Norwegian goalkeeper Kristian Buen, who did not allow a single Italian shot into the net during the shoot-out and recorded 15 saves during the course of the game.
Italy actually led first in the contest, as Florian Planker put the first tally on the board with 4:12 remaining in the second period, slapping the puck into the net off a pass from Gregory Leperdi.
Norway quickly regrouped, with Rolf Pederson tapping in a score, assisted by Eskil Hagen, early in the third period.
Both defenses stepped up late in the match, forcing an overtime period, and even then neither side was able to get a score, resulting in the penalty shoot-out the Norwegians would ultimately claim theirs.
Vaernes said qualifying for Sochi “means everything,” and that the team’s next major goal will be to make the Paralympic podium, something their programme has been quite accustomed to in the past.
Earlier in the day, host nation Korea picked up their first win of the Championships, defeating Sweden 5-0 in the seventh-place game.
The home team outshot their opponents 25-7, and shined behind star Seung-Hwan Jung, who had two goals and five attempts at the net on the day.
But it was Young-Jae Cho who first found the net for Korea just 2:39 into the contest to give them a quick 1-0 advantage. Then, within a span of 45 seconds toward the end of the first period both Yong-Min Lee and Jung found the net for Korea to push their lead to 3-0 at the early stages of the game.
Jung scored again in the second and Byeong-Seok Cho netted a goal of a pass from Jung in the third to close out the game for the Koreans.
Niklas Ingvarsson and Per Kasperi led the Swedish effort with three and two shots on goal, respectively, as Young-Hoon Chung recorded the shutout in goal for Korea with seven saves.
The Championships will conclude on Saturday (20 April) with the medal games. The Czech Republic will challenge Russia for bronze at 13:00 (KST), and Canada will take on the USA for gold at 16:30.
For more information on the Championships, please visit the event website at www.icesledgehockeyworlds.org.
All games are being streamed live on the IPC's YouTube channel, www.YouTube.com/ParalympicSportTV.
You can also follow the action on Twitter @IPCISH and on the ice sledge hockey Facebook page www.Facebook.com/IceSledgeHockey.