Sledge hockey’s biggest rivalry will be on display in the World Sledge Hockey Challenge

Canada’s decisive victory in the Dec. 6 semi-final gives the fans what they’ve been waiting for: Canada and the United Sates in the World Sledge Hockey Challenge finals. The gold medal affair is on Dec. 8 at 5 p.m. in WinSport’s Markin MacPhail Centre (Rink A) in northwest Calgary.

The United States earned a berth in the final with a 4-1 win over Norway earlier in the day, while Canada earned its spot by beating Japan 10-0.

Dec. 8 promises to be a hard fought, physical battle, and it’s clear both these teams have no love lost between them. Team Canada captain Greg Westlake talked about the nature of the rivalry.

‘We don’t like each other and that’s fine, they might be decent guys, but they’re in the way of what we want, so we have to go through them,” Westlake said.

American forward, Alexi Salamone, delivers a big open ice hit to Canadian forward, Brad Bowden.

Photo by Lucas Silva

Despite a disappointing finish earlier this year at the 2012 World Championship in Hamar, Norway, which saw Canada finishing with a bronze after losing to Korea in the semis, Head Coach Mark Mondin said he’s confident the team has moved on.

“I think we’re over that, and we didn’t even talk about it in the last game against the United States, but it’s obviously in the back of their minds,” Mondin said. But he was quick to credit Westlake for leading the team.

“When we approached that last game against the U.S., our captain did a real nice job in the dressing room, of keeping the guys nice and loose, so they weren’t real tensed up going out into the game,” Mondin explained.

Canada’s men’s sledge hockey team holds a 46-14-0 record against the United States since 2004, and won its round-robin tilt in earlier in the tournament, but the Americans and Canadians have been going at it for years.

The Americans have captured gold at four of their last six international competitions including the gold at the 2012 World Championship in Norway, and gold at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver.

That’s coming off the heels of five straight gold medals in international competition for the Canadians between 2006 and 2009.

Canadian forward Billy Bridges, celebrates after scoring in Thursday nights semi-final.

Photo by A.J. Mike Smith

Team Canada Assistant Captain Brad Bowden talked about the competition level: “We love them, and sometimes we hate them, but that’s the biggest rivalry: it’s Canada-US,” Bowden said. “We got to appreciate the competitive level there, and having your arch rivals at a tournament and wanting to beat them.”

Canada’s semi-final victory

Team Canada Captain Greg Westlake had a big game against the Japanese in the semi-finals with two goals, and three assists, while forward Brad Bowden contributed two goals and one assist. Defenseman Adam Dixon also had a big game with a goal and three assists in the victory.

Forward Tyler McGregor, 18, scored his first career goal as a player with Team Canada.

The excited McGregor said of that moment: “I crossed the blue-line, made a little spin move, passed it to Kieran Block, he dished it off to Dixon, and Dixon got the shot off. I just came in for the rebound and put it in.”

“I’m excited, for sure, it’s a monkey off the back.”

Canada outshot the Japanese 36-5, with goalie Benoît St-Amand posting the shutout.

Meanwhile, Daniel McCoy and Alexi Salamone both contributed two points in the United States semi-final victory over Norway. The Americans outshot Norway 40-8, and finished with a 4-1 victory.

lsilva@cjournal.ca