In a much anticipated rematch of the 2019 World Para Ice Hockey Championships, Team U.S.A. and Team Canada took the ice for the final game in Ostrava to battle it out for gold and the top sled hockey ranking in the world. In 2019, Team USA came back to win gold in a dramatic overtime win. Canada earned some early redemption in their 2021 opening round game victory over U.S.A. by a score of 2-1. Canada, though, would not be content to settle for a preliminary round win and silver medal this year. In this match up of sled hockey powerhouses, which team would come out on top?
Just a few minutes into play, it was obvious that this was not the same Team U.S.A. from the preliminary round shaking the rust and dust off. U.S.A. came out humming immediately and the pressure was on Canadian goaltender Dominic Larocque to keep Canada in the game from the very start of this period. Team U.S.A. played fast, clean, and physical and in Canada’s zone.
The period began with five or six good U.S.A. chances. Scoring success came with 7:52 left in the period as Canada’s Liam Hickey was called for a penalty against Declan Farmer. Hickey barely had time to get to the sin bin and think about what he’d done before Farmer received a cross ice pass from Jack Wallace and put a left handed shot past goalie Larocque to make the score 1-0.
U.S.A. continued to stress the Canadian defense and Larocque. Wallace and Farmer each contrubuted to a growing shots-on-goal total, but didn’t find the back of the net. Any chance Canada had to take possession and clear the zone was thwarted either by a quick takeaway or a neutral zone regroup by the Americans. The best chance Canada had partway through the period came on a long pass to a streaking McGregor, but McGregor was offsides and the puck returned to the opposite end of the ice.
Canada’s rough start continued as Travis Dodson brought the puck in off a neutral zone turnover and squeaked a shot past Larocque making the score 2-0 with less than five minutes remaining in the period.
Team U.S.A. gave Canada a break when Jack Wallace was called for a delay of game penalty with just under two minutes left. Canada took advantage of the gifted power play with a goal by Billy Bridges making the game 2-1.
The goal seemed to give Canada their first shot of energy. They finally applied some offensive pressure to end the period but with no success. The period ended with a score of 2-1 and some chippy talk between the teams as the headed off the ice.
If Canada hoped to bring their late goal momentum into the second period, they were quickly stymied by a swarming Team U.S.A. Canada put themselves at a disadvantage less than four minutes into the period as Billy Bridges was called for a hard teeing call against Declan Farmer. Canada’s clear on the power play was the first time the puck came anywhere near U.S.A. goalie Steve Cash as he corralled it and sent Team U.S.A. off again on the attack.
With just :10 left on the power play, Canada’s Westlake laid on top of the puck to halt a threatening scrum in front of the Canadian net. Westlake headed to the sin bin for a delay of game penalty, and Team U.S.A. set up to play a brief 5 on 3. It took less than ten seconds for Travis Dodson to find Captain Josh Pauls cutting to the net, and Pauls sent his shot past Larocque to make the score 3-1 for U.S.A.
Canada was able to hang on and kill off the remaining penalty and keep U.S.A. from setting up offensively on the man advantage. The final five minutes of the period saw a more stretched out, chaotic game. Canada was able to move the puck on offense more than previously in the game, but without any real success to show for it.
With just over a minute remaining, U.S.A. scooped up the puck from in front of their own net, and Declan Farmer took off to receive a stretch pass. Farmer’s fast puck handling skills beat Larocque on the breakaway, and Farmer netted his second of the game. Team U.S.A. up 4-1.
To get back in this game, Canada was going to have to up the offensive pressure with only one shot on goal recorded in the first two periods. Team U.S.A. got the first shot off of the period on a 2 on 1 laser by Jack Wallace. Larocque stopped the puck with the side of his neck but continued in net after being checked out by the medical staff.
It was obvious that Team U.S.A. planned to use the clock to their advantage as they took their time in the offensive zone. The game took on a new level of physicality as the hits increased in frequency and intensity.
Team Canada had a two minute window to close the scoring gap on an intereference call against Captain Josh Pauls (which could have as easily been a Canadian penalty for holding). While Pauls cooled his jets in the penalty box, Canada brought the puck into the offensive zone but were quickly frustrated by a U.S.A. defense who wouldn’t allow them to set up. U.S.A. killed the penalty and returned to full strength with no harm done.
With 6:25 left in the game, Team U.S.A. executed a gorgeous tic tac toe play from Roybal to Dodson to Eustace. Eustace sent the puck top shelf making the score 5-1.
Play went to four on four with just five and a half minutes left after a teeing call against Josh Misiewicz and a retaliatory “jostle” from Canada’s Antoine Lehoux. Spreading the ice out didn’t help Canada gain much advantage as Team U.S.A. continued to dominate play.
After an opening round loss, Team U.S.A. defeated Team Canada with a decisive 5-1 score, securing the gold medal and the top world ranking heading to the 2022 Pralympics in Beijing.
- It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish - After U.S.A.’s opening game against Canada, not many in the sled hockey world would have predicted this so one sided gold medal outcome. Team U.S.A. was able to improve their play and find their groove as they moved through the tournament. They peaked at just the right time.
- Clutch players play clutch - It was unusal to see Declan Farmer enter this final match at Worlds with only one semi final goal to his name, but he elevated his game when it mattered most. His two goals and his physical play led Team U.S.A. to victory.
- USA = BEST IN THE WORLD - Enough said.