This article first appeared on Paralympic.org on Dec. 6, 2013.
The table is set for an all-North American finish and a rematch from earlier in the tournament at the World Sledge Hockey Challenge, as both Canada and the USA won their semi-final matchups on Thursday (5 December) to advance to the gold-medal game.
USA regained their scoring touch on Thursday afternoon in the first semi-final of the day against Russia, defeating them 4-1.
After a scoreless first period, Josh Pauls and his line of Greg Shaw and Declan Farmer came out of the intermission firing. Pauls was sprung on a breakaway just 19 seconds into the second period and beat Russian starting goaltender, Mikhail Ivanov.
Seven minutes later, it was Paul Schaus who extended the Americans lead to two, scoring his first goal of the tournament. Before the period ended, Pauls netted his second goal of the game while Farmer picked up his second assist of the game.
Farmer wasn’t done there. Five minutes into the third period, the young forward got a friendly bounce off the boards and beat Russia’s Konstantin Lobanov. Lobanov replaced Ivanov before the end of the second period.
A late goal by Nikolay Terentyev, his tournament leading fifth goal, wasn’t enough as Russia lost for the third time at the World Sledge Hockey Challenge.
Steve Cash got the win in goal for the USA, making 12 saves. He was replaced by Jen Yung Lee with five minutes remaining in the third period who surrendered the lone Russian goal.
Cash was impressed with his team’s play after the game.
“I think start to finish our guys played pretty well in front of me,” he said. (Russia) didn’t get too many good chances and we finished ours.”
The second semi-final game was close, as Canada just squeaked out a 2-1 victory over South Korea.
It was another hot start for Canada as within three minutes, it was already 2-0.
Anthony Gale got the scoring started getting one past South Korean starting goalie Man-Gyun Yu and 26 seconds later it was Kevin Rempel scoring on the power play off a nice passing play.
“I just circled back and saw that Brad was coming back around I was thinking back door and he had that line so I set my stick on the ice,” said Rempel describing his third goal of the tournament.
Just one minute into the second period, Young-Jae Cho scored on the power play to cut the lead to one.
Despite a late surge to try and get the equaliser, South Korea only managed to get seven shots on Canadian goalie Benoit St-Amand.
Meanwhile, Yu stood tall for the Koreans, posting a .926 save percentage and making 25 saves.
Canadian head coach Mike Mondin praised the South Koreans after the game for their performance but also thought his team needed to do a better job of taking advantage of their opportunities.
“Look at the shots, we have to bury our chances and that’s something we’ve worked on a lot. That will come,” he said.
Friday marks an off day in the tournament schedule in preparation for the medal games on Saturday (7 December). USA head coach Jeff Sauer said his team will be looking for a better start.
“The bottom line is we’ve got to put pressure on them right away,” said Sauer. “They have five or six players who are very good but they’re much like we are. We have five or six that are very good and then from that point on it’s kind of an even roster. Hopefully, we come to play (Saturday) from the start of the game and if we do then it should be an exciting game.”
Russia will face South Korea for the bronze medal at 13:00 (EST) on Saturday, while USA will play Canada in the gold-medal game, which will be broadcast live nationally in Canada on TSN at 19:30 (EST).
All four of these teams have already qualified for the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.