CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – Greg Westlake (Oakville, Ont.), Ben Delaney (Ottawa, Ont.) and Brian Sholomicki (Winnipeg, Man.) scored, Dominic Larocque (Quebec City, Que.) was perfect in net and Canada’s National Sledge Team opened with a 3-0 win over Norway at the 2016 World Sledge Hockey Challenge.
It was Larocque’s fifth career shutout with the team.
Rob Armstrong (Erin, Ont.), Corbyn Smith (Monkton, Ont.), Billy Bridges (Summerside, P.E.I.) and James Gemmell (Quesnel, B.C.) all had an assist.
Kjell Christian Hamar made 18 saves in net for Norway.
Canada has now won all 10 meetings between the teams at the tournament.
Canada took the lead only 2:15 in. Armstrong left a drop pass for Westlake in the left circle; the captain found the far low corner from just above the goal line. Smith picked up the second assist on the goal for his first point with Canada’s National Sledge Team.
Canada wanted to play a more up-tempo game this season, and its plan was on full display in the form of rookie Liam Hickey (St. John’s, N.L), who twice in the opening period pulled away from multiple defenders to create scoring chances for himself.
At the same time, Canada limited Norway’s offensive opportunities. It took 9:40 – more than half the first period – for Norway to register its first shot on net.
Already holding most of the momentum throughout the period, Canada added a second goal three seconds before the intermission. Delaney pounced on a loose puck down low for an unassisted tally.
It was all Canada in the second period as well, with the team outshooting Norway 8-1 over the 15 minutes.
Sholomicki finished high off a cross-ice pass from Bridges to make it 3-0 with just over two minutes remaining in that middle frame. The Canadians’ lead could’ve been more if not for the three posts it hit to that point.
An aggressive Canadian forecheck kept the Norwegians on their heels for most of the game. Norway’s short bench – the team dressed only eight forwards and three defencemen – also didn’t allow the team to counter with as much energy as the Canadians attacked with.
Greg Westlake, captain, on the speed of the team:
“It’s a speed game, the refs have always called a tight game internationally so it doesn’t do us a lot of good being the toughest team out there; I still think we are tough but you’ve got to be mentally tough, you’ve got to be able to move your hands and get going out there. We worked really hard last year and this year to be a 12 month team, training all off-season and guys showed up to camp in great shape so this is our first game in seven months. I appreciate you saw some speed out there, but I think we can get better once we get the passes going.”
Bryan Sholomicki, assistant captain, on geling together:
“I think everyone’s meshing together really well, I think everyone’s done their homework and they’ve come back and we can play with anybody on the team. I mean we can mix and match lines and we have the recipe to win.”
Ken Babey, head coach, on changing up the roster for this season:
“This is our first game in seven months with the changes we made with the lineup you know nobody’s really played together so you’re going to be out of sync a bit, but I saw some really good players tonight in terms of the new players. I thought [Liam] Hickey had a really good game, I thought Smytty [Corbyn Smith] played good and Greg Westlake, that whole line was a good force for us. I think once guys get used to each other a little bit and the style of play and who they’re playing with we’re going to get better, but there’s some good signs there.”