BUFFALO, N.Y. – Greg Westlake (Oakville, Ont.) opened the scoring in the first period, but Canada’s National Sledge Team came up a goal short in a 2-1 loss to the United States on Thursday night.
The game was first of two between the cross-border rivals, who will meet again Saturday afternoon on Canadian ice in Port Colborne, Ont. (3:30 p.m. ET/12:30 p.m. PT) in the final tune-up for both ahead of the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.
The Canadians had the better chances early, including a partial breakaway by Billy Bridges (Summerside, P.E.I.) and took the lead when Westlake finished off a pretty passing play at 11:39 of the opening frame.
Adam Dixon (Midland, Ont.) and Liam Hickey (St. John’s, N.L.) picked up the assists on the goal, the 160th career international marker for the Canadian captain.
The U.S. needed just 62 seconds of the second period to draw even when Declan Farmer beat goaltender Dominic Larocque (Quebec City, Que.) past the glove, and he added a second goal on an American power play late in the middle stanza for a 2-1 lead after 30 minutes.
“I thought we did a pretty good job in a tight game against our number one rival. Hard emotionally to take, but that’s the breaks of the game. We just have to go out work harder and get another chance, which we had, and then you have to make sure you bury that one. I look forward to seeing how we respond on Saturday and overall I like a lot of aspects of our game; we did out-chance them 12 to five and outshot them. Our offensive part of the game is doing well, we just have to be sharper in some other areas.”
– Head coach, Ken Babey, (Saskatoon, Sask.) on responding after the disallowed goal
“Leading into Paralympics, I think this game was good for us to set the pace and come out strong, we had a good portion of the game where we were in full control. It’s important for the guys in the room to know we can control the game and make it ours; we just have to make it a complete [45 minute] game.”
– Adam Dixon on the team’s effort against the U.S.
Canada outshot the U.S. 8-5 in the decisive second period, and held a 19-12 advantage overall.
The Canadians thought they had tied the game with just under nine minutes left when Ben Delaney (Ottawa, Ont.) buried his own rebound past Cash, but Bridges was called for goaltender interference to nullify the 2-2 goal.
That would be as close as Canada would get, despite a 7-3 edge in shots in the third.
The Canadians and Americans have dominated international para hockey for a decade-and-a-half; the last team other than the North Americans to win a major title was Norway at the 2004 world championship.