Team Canada loses championship game 1-0

Team U.S.A. will head into the new year as reigning sledge hockey champions, after beating Team Canada 1 – 0 in the gold medal game at the 2012 World Sledge Hockey Challenge on Dec. 8.

After falling to the Canadians 2 – 0 earlier in the tournament, the Americans spoiled the Canadian team’s hopes of capturing gold in front of their home crowd in Calgary.

Taylor Chace, captain of the American squad, scored the lone goal in another instant classic between the two hockey giants.

“It’s always a blast playing Canada. It’s always a tight game,” said a smiling Chace after the game. “Both countries know that and it’s the best thing for sledge hockey.”

The Americans controlled the play in a physical first period between the rivals. Quality scoring plays took the backseat to big open ice hits, with the Americans registering the only three shots of the period.Team USA celebrates their 1-0 win over Team Canada. They are now the 2012 World Sledge Hockey Challenge champions.

Photo by Matt Laurin

The second period was more of the same, as both teams tried to establish physical control. Canada finally managed to generate a few shots, but it was Chace who finally ended the deadlock 9:10 into the second. Showing excellent patience, Chace hesitated just long enough, before firing a shot through traffic that fooled Canadian goaltender Benoit St. Amand.

“When you’re in a sled it’s hard. Obviously you can’t skate backwards and laterally you don’t have much movement,” Chace said. “I just waited for that gap and ripped it as hard as I could, and it went in.”

A desperate Canadian team brought everything they had in the third period, finally breaking through the stifling American defense. They generated several quality scoring chances, highlighted by a Greg Westlake breakaway, but could not solve goaltender Steve Cash.

“The bottom line is all 17 guys we had dressed tonight play a big part in this win,” said Jeff Sauer, head coach of Team U.S.A.

Sauer says he is impressed with how far his team has come.

“I’ve been with the team now a year and a half,” Sauer said. “We’re much further along today than we were a year ago.”

Meanwhile, on the Canadian side, head coach Mike Mondin says the focus has already shifted to winning the World Championships.

“It’s always a blast playing Canada. It’s always a tight game. Both countries know that and it’s the best thing for sledge hockey.”

-Taylor Chace, captain of Team USA sledge hockey.

“That’s already come up in the dressing room, so hopefully that’s what is going to happen. It’s never too soon to start thinking ahead,” Mondin added.

He pointed to the slow start at the biggest factor in the loss.

“The difference was the first two periods, and we just got off our game plan,” Mondin said. “We allowed the Americans to establish a good forecheck and we beat them to a lot of races for loose pucks but once we were there we just didn’t do anything with it.”

“We have to learn from it, and we know capable of playing much better than that.”

Team Canada forward Billy Bridges said too much individual play put his team behind.

“We just got a little overwhelmed. We were trying individually to slow things down and trying to do breakouts by ourselves, instead of really unifying as a team like we did in the third period,” said Bridges.

Both teams will now take a short break, before beginning preparations for the World Championships, which take place in Goyang City, Korea, in April.

Bridges, who already can’t wait to get back to work, said the loss would keep the team motivated during the holidays.

“After losing a tournament right before Christmas, were not thinking about presents or taking time off. We’re thinking about the next time we are going to get in the gym.”

mlaurin@cjournal.ca, ajsmith@cjournal.ca