Dominic Cozzolino (Mississauga, Ont.) scored the game-winning goal and recorded a primary assist to vault Canada’s National Para Hockey Team to a 3-1 victory over Russia in the semifinals of the 2019 Canadian Tire Para Hockey Cup on Thursday night.
Rob Armstrong (Erin, Ont.) and James Dunn (Wallacetown, Ont.) also manufactured markers and Liam Hickey (St. John’s N.L.) chipped in two assists for Canada, which will face the United States in the gold medal game on Saturday night (6 p.m. NT/TSN 4). Canada is seeking its first championship at this competition, formerly known as the World Sledge Hockey Challenge, since prevailing at the 2013 edition in Toronto, Ont.
Dominic Larocque (Quebec City, Que.) earned the victory between the pipes with a nine-save showing, while Vladimir Kamantsev made 23 saves in defeat for Russia, which will vie for bronze against the Czech Republic on Saturday afternoon (12 p.m. NT).
After engaging in a defensive chess match for the first half of the frame – it took over five minutes of game action before either side registered a shot on goal – the ice opened up to enable rush chances to be exchanged between the two sides.
While Canada prevailed in the match, it was Russia that drew first blood with 5:19 remaining in the period as Vasili Varlakov beat a diving Larocque with a hard, low shot off a 2-on-1 rush with Airat Khamzin.
Armstrong wiped away the lead just 29 seconds later by accepting Cozzolino’s lateral tip pass and slamming the puck past an out-of-position Kamantsev.
Canada outshot Russia 5-4 in the first period.
By spending three-and-a-half of the first four minutes of the second period on the power play, Canada was able to establish control over the flow of play as it generated six shots on net over those two opportunities.
The third man-advantage opportunity of the period proved to be the charm as Cozzolino sailed a rising shot over the stick of a diving Kamantsev for a Canadian power-play goal with 4:32 remaining in the second period.
Canada owned a decisive 13-4 edge on the shot clock in period two.
Dunn provided Canada some insurance close to the four-minute mark of the frame with a goal-of-the-tournament candidate: the 19-year-old made a couple of flashy spin-o-rama maneuvers out of the left corner to break down the Russian defensive coverage, which led to him beating Kamantsev with an in-tight forehand dangle.
Canada went 1-for-5 on the power play in the match; Russia could not convert on two chances.
“I think everyone stepped up their game today. It was beautiful to see; we got every guy in that room working hard and we’re really playing for each other. I think so much of tonight’s success came from the crowd here. Newfoundland has been an awesome place, [the fans] support us so much and it’s so loud in the rink. We came out today knowing we had a job to do, and I think you could see that on the ice from start to finish.”
– Cozzolino on what helped Canada to the win
“I think we came in extremely motivated. It was a tough loss to [Russia] in the preliminary round, so we wanted to come out and wanted to make sure that we got the job done. We stayed positive, we knew that we had to come shift after shift, keep the positivity up on the ice and on the bench, and we did that. You could tell the feeling on the bench, that everyone was firing on all cylinders.”
- Liam Hickey (St. John’s, N.L.) on the team’s mentality
“[It was a] tight game again. I think it was a great team effort. It was our best game of the tournament so far, and we keep building our capacity as we go through this week. We’re now looking forward to playing in that gold medal game. I thought it was an outstanding team effort from all the lines. Everybody contributed. They played so well, we could roll every line, use everybody. I think that was a key factor for us, because we had the energy to close it out in the third period.”
– Head coach Ken Babey (Saskatoon, Sask.) on his team’s performance