In a thrilling rematch of the Sochi 2014 Paralympic final, the USA beat Russia, 6-1, on the opening day of the 2015 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships A-Pool in Buffalo, New York in the USA.
A sold-out HARBORCENTER crowd instantly erupted when 16-year-old Brody Roybal opened the scoring for the host nation with an even-strength goal at the 7:02 mark in the first period to put the USA up 1-0.
The USA’s team captain Josh Sweeney added a tally to the scoreboard in the second, as did 17-year-old forward Declan Farmer on a power play to put the Paralympic champions up 3-0.
But Russia charged back as Ilia Volkov – previously a sitting volleyball player – put the puck past Steve Cash for the score.
Following a video review in the third, Josh Pauls was awarded a goal to make it 4-1. Sweeney scored again in the final frame, and Joshua Misiewicz added an insurance goal.
“We put that first goal up on the board early, and I think that was the difference. We were then able to push the entire game,” Roybal said. “It was a world of difference out here (compared to Sochi), having that many fans to cheer U-S-A, U-S-A the entire game. It was amazing.”
ITALY 1, GERMANY 0
In a game that showcased some of the best defence in sledge hockey, current European champions Italy came away with a slight 1-0 victory.
Italian defenceman Andrea Macri, who was three touches away from a wheelchair fencing bronze medal at the London 2012 Paralympics, scored the lone goal of the game when he net the puck off a pass from Werner Winkler at the 13:56 mark in the first period.
“This matchup was so important, a must-win for us,” Macri said. “We know that tomorrow we’ll have to be even better against Russia, but this was a good test for us. Staying in the A-Pool is the most important thing for us.”
Italy outshot Germany 12-11, with Gabriele Araudo making 11 saves for Italy and Simon Kunst stopping 11 pucks for Germany.
NORWAY 3, CZECH REPUBLIC 1
Earlier in the day, the fourth-place finishers from Sochi 2014, Norway, handily beat the fourth-place finishers from the last World Championships, the Czech Republic, in the first game of Buffalo 2015.
The Czech Republic’s Michal Geier scored the first goal of the Championships at the 7:48 mark in the first period. But Norway’s three-goal burst in the second period, with even-strength scores from Rolf Pedersen and Emil Sorheim, and a short-handed shot from Jan Roger Klakegg, put the team ahead, where they stayed for good.
Norway outshot the Czech Republic, 16-14, in head coach Espen Hegde’s World Championship debut.
“We have been playing well all year, and we hope folks like the way we played today,” Pedersen said. “Our new coach is focusing on the right things and getting the right players together in the right lines.”
Norway’s Kjell Christian Hamar blocked 13 of 14 shots that came his way during the game, while the Czech Republic’s Michal Vapenka made 13 saves on 14 shots.
CANADA 17, JAPAN 0
Five years ago, Japan upset Canada on their home ice in the semi-final of the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games. However, it was a very different story on the first day of action in Buffalo, as reigning world champions Canada easily defeated Japan by a score of 17-0.
Just 20 seconds into the contest, team captain Greg Westlake slammed the puck into the net, and from that point on Canada was on the offensive attack for the rest of the period, building a 12-0 lead in the first 15 minutes of the game.
Canada scored three more times in the second period and twice in the third period, showing they are all business at these World Championships.
Westlake finished the game with five goals and three assists. Brad Bowden and Billy Bridges each had three goals, with five and three assists, respectively.
“We’ve got to cherish each game, and we talked about that in the lead up to these Championships, to make the most of this opportunity,” Westlake said. “The start for us today just showed us how excited we are to be here.”
Mitsuru Nagase and Shinobu Fukushima split the duties in net for Japan, combining for 25 saves on the day. Goaltender Corbin Watson sealed the shutout between the pipes for Canada, saving six shots.
Next up, the Czech Republic will face Japan at 9:30am (ET) on Monday (27 April). That matchup will be followed by Canada-Norway at 1:00pm (ET), which is a rematch of the Sochi 2014 bronze-medal game. Italy will then challenge Russia at 4:30pm (ET), and Germany will compete against the USA at 8:00pm (ET).