March 11, 2014 (ISN) – The classification round for ice sledge hockey at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games is set as four teams will battle it out for the best seeds possible, hoping to advance to the fifth-place game later in the week.
Sweden and Italy will duel in the first game at 16:00 (MSK) at Shayba Arena on Wednesday (12 March). Italy finished third in Group B while Sweden finished in fourth place in Group A during preliminary round action.
Veteran forward Florian Planker has been the biggest threat offensively for Italy, scoring two goals already in the tournament.
Team captain Andrea Chiarotti has also impressed for the Italians, adding an assist and carrying a plus/minus rating of plus two, the best on his team.
Italy, the current European champions, have quickly accepted their fate in the classification round and are determined to finish as high as possible.
“Now our objective is fifth place. So we have to fight,” forward Andrea Macri said.
Forward Per Kasperi has been the main man offensively for Sweden, picking up a goal and an assist through three games at Sochi 2014.
Kasperi said it is always fun to play no matter what happens, but wants to finish in the best possible position.
“We came eighth (out of eight teams) in Vancouver 2010 so any improvement on that would be a good performance for us,” Kasperi said.
Both Italy and Sweden are known for their physicality to date already, ranking second and third, respectively, in penalty minutes with 24 and 20.
A tight classification game is expected between the Czech Republic, who finished third in Group A, and South Korea, who finished fourth in Group B. The two will square off at 20:00 (MSK).
The Czech Republic are a veteran team who have received superb goaltending from Michal Vapenka. Vapenka has the fourth best goaltending statistics at Sochi 2014, with a 1.24 goals against average and 90.48 save percentage to anchor a strong Czech defence.
“We reached the top four at the last two World Championships but we got lucky there,” Czech forward Zdenek Habl said. “I’m certainly pleased with our performance at this tournament despite not getting into the top four.”
South Korea, silver medallists at the 2012 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships A-Pool, have scored four goals through two games and will be looking to beat a tough Czech goaltender in Vapenka.
Seung-Hwan Jung has led South Korea’s offence, producing a goal and an assist so far and hopes to help the team place as high as possible ahead of hosting the next Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang in 2018.
Goaltender Man-Gyun Yu also remains confident on how his team has played so far.
“We’re not going to change anything in terms of strategy,” Yu said. “We’re just going to show the best play we can do.”