This past week, sledge hockey teams from Canada, South Korea and Norway headed to Italy to join the host nation in an international tournament.
Held in Torino, home of the 2006 Winter Paralympics, the IPC tournament began on Monday with a series of round robin games, before culminating in the medal games on Saturday.
Even before the tournament began, the scales were heavily weighted towards the Canadians taking home the gold medal, and that was exactly what happened. But despite their overwhelming dominance on the ice, the other teams played well and can certainly hold their heads up proudly.
Canada only conceded two goals throughout the tournament, one each to netminders Corbin Watson and Dominic Larocque. The veterans on the team, such as Tyler McGregor, Greg Westlake, Billy Bridges and Brad Bowden, came away with plenty of goals and assists each (McGregor topped the scoring chart with 10 goals and 9 assists!), but it was some of the newer players that really shone through.
Dominic Cozzolino, in his first year on the National Team, came away with a very impressive 5 goals and 7 assists and was a clear standout. On a line with Bridges and McGregor, Cozzolino seemed to be everywhere on the ice, getting himself into the perfect position for passes. Teammate Rob Armstrong also scored his first goal for Team Canada, as well as picking up two assists.
Hosts Italy, who were playing without some of their top names, took the silver medal. But possibly more importantly, they proved to be the only team who could get past the Canadian netminders, with both of the conceded goals being theirs – one from Andrea Chiarotti on the power play, and the other from Gianluigi Rosa in a 5-on-5 battle. Rosa suffered a potentially serious injury during Friday’s semi-final game against Korea, when he was caught on the neck with a pick. He sat out the remainder of that game, but returned for the gold medal game, scoring the only Italian goal. He also led the team in both goals and points (3 goals, 1 assist). Netminder Santino Stillitano, despite conceding several goals, made some fantastic saves, helping Italy to become the only team other than Canada to record a shut-out.
Norway and South Korea proved to be evenly-matched as both games between them (a round robin game on Tuesday, and the bronze medal game on Saturday) ended up going into overtime, with the bronze medal game needing a shootout to decide the eventual winner. For Korea, who were only recently promoted to Pool A, it was a good test for them. Seung Hwan Jung lived up to his “rocket man” nickname throughout the tournament, with his speed being backed up by 4 goals and 3 assists. Unfortunately, the downfall for the team seemed to be in their lack of discipline, as they received a total of 54 penalty minutes – almost double the amount of any other team.
Norway are clearly still struggling to return to their previous levels, having lost every game of the tournament. Veteran Rolf Pedersen continued to lead by example, finishing with 4 goals and an assist, but the team managed only 8 goals between them. Despite this, they seemed to remain positive, with energy levels still high throughout. Martin Hamre, Loyd Remi Solberg and Emil Sorheim each managed to score and seem to be a solid core for future development of the team.
Canada will see South Korea again in January when they host them at the World Sledge Hockey Challenge in Nova Scotia, along with USA and Russia.
Results – Preliminary Rounds
Korea 0 – 8 Canada
Norway 1 – 2 Italy
Canada 5 – 1 Italy
Korea 5 – 4 Norway (OT)
Korea 0 – 4 Italy
Norway 0 – 8 Canada
Results – Semifinals
Korea 2 – 3 Italy
Norway 0 – 10 Canada
Results – Bronze Medal Game
Norway 3 – 4 Korea (SO)
Results – Gold Medal Game
Italy 1 – 7 Canada