Canada slides into the semi-finals in first place in the World Sledge Hockey Challenge

After a hard-fought win against the United States on Dec. 5, Canada’s national sledge hockey team is set to face Japan Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. at the Markin MacPhail Centre in Rink A in Calgary, AB.

The Canadians have already faced Japan in the tournament winning their round robin tilt with the Japanese 11-0, but Team Canada defenseman Adam Dixon said that his squad can’t overlook the much-improved Japanese club.

“Yeah, there’s a good chance, but we’re not looking past the semis with Japan, we’ve got to beat them first, and then we’ll focus on the gold medal game,” Dixon said.

Canada’s head coach, Mike Mondin, said, “The Japanese have improved since they got here.”

“They showed that today against Norway, so we have to be prepared for them, and it’s not going to be the same team we saw earlier in the week. The Japanese are going to compete real hard tomorrow,” Mondin said.

Billy Bridges streaks in on his second period short-handed breakaway.

Photo by Lucas Silva

Canada should have plenty of momentum heading into the semi-final, after a big 2-1 victory over the Americans, moving their record to a perfect 3-0 at the end of round robin play.

Japan finished the round robin of the World Sledge Hockey Challenge with a 0-2-1 record, including a close 1-0 shootout loss to Norway in yesterday’s matinee.

Adam Dixon opened the scoring last night with a long seeing-eye shot from the point, and the first period ended with a score of 1-0 with Canada outshooting the Americans 6-4.

The Canadians took control in the second period. Billy Bridges snuck in behind the American defense, and buried a short-handed breakaway on a pass off the glass from Adam Dixon.

“It was funny,” Bridges said, “Because I went out too soon, so my trainer actually reached over the boards, and picked me right up and threw me right back into the bench. I didn’t think I had enough time, and by the time I got out there it was like receiving a pass from Peyton Manning, Adam Dixon is so amazing.”

Team Canada salutes the fans after their big 2-1 triumph over the Americans on Wednesday night.

Photo by A.J. Mike Smith

Dixon and Bridges both contributed a goal and an assist in the effort, and Dixon was awarded with the player of the game for Canada. United States defenseman, Taylor Chace, added a late third period goal that made it interesting, but Canada was able to secure the 2-1 victory.

Kevin McKee played a solid two-way game for the Americans, and was named player of the game for their squad. The United States team will continue on to their semi-final game against the pesky Norway squad at 12 p.m. on Dec. 6. The United States beat the Norwegians 3-1 in their round robin game, and peppered Norway’s net-minder, Kristian Buen, with 24 shots.

With each teams’ sights set on the gold medal, Dixon explains that above all else, himself and his teammates are enjoying the World Sledge Hockey Challenge.

“Our team’s getting a lot better every game, and we’re doing all the little things that are making us successful. It’s really enjoyable to play hockey right now.”

ajsmith@cjournal.ca, lsilva@cjournal.ca