World Sledge Hockey Challenge 2016

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[Photo courtesy of Andy Devlin / Hockey Canada Images]

[Photo courtesy of Andy Devlin / Hockey Canada Images]

The World Sledge Hockey Challenge is one of the most eagerly anticipated events of the sledge hockey calendar.

Starting back in 2007, when it was held in Kelowna, BC, Canada, the tournament always features four national teams, including USA and Canada.  The other two team change most years, but have included Russia, Korea, Japan, Norway and Germany.  And every year, either USA or Canada have taken home the gold medal (USA on 3 occasions, Canada on 5).

Last year, despite only winning one game during the preliminary round, Russia found themselves facing USA in a nail-biting gold medal game.  Three periods wasn’t enough to distinguish between the two teams, but it took just 19 seconds into overtime for Josh Pauls to become the hero for USA.  There’s no doubt at all that Russia are going to want to even the score this time around.  Russia also competed in the WSHC in 2013 when they won a bronze medal.  In that tournament, Dmitry Lisov was named the top point scorer.

Korea haven’t won a game in the last two WSHC tournaments, but are playing a large number of international tournaments recently in order to prove themselves worthy of their Pool A position.  While they won the bronze medal in December in Torino, it was only the games against Norway that they won, and their losses comprised of an 8-0 shutout by Canada and a 4-0 shut out by Italy.  They also came away from the tournament with the highest number of penalties – something which is a familiar sight with them. In last year’s WSHC, they had a total of 99 penalty minutes in one game against the USA.  It’s almost understandable when you’re losing 8-0 in a game, but they’re going to need to learn some more control if they want to succeed at this level.

I’m sure I don’t need to talk about USA or Canada.  Both teams are playing at their best ever levels, with some of the greatest sledge hockey players on their rosters.  While all eyes are on the up and coming young guns, I still recommend watching out for the more experienced players who are showing no real signs of slowing down.

This year, the tournament is taking place in Bridgewater, NS, Canada, and it’s the turn of the Russian and Korean teams to do battle against the two powerhouses.  As usual, the format is a 6-game preliminary stage, followed by the semi-finals, and then the bronze medal and gold medal games.  It starts on Sunday 17th January with USA facing Korea.

You can see the full schedule on Hockey Canada’s website.  If you’re lucky enough to be close enough to watch the games live, a full-tournament ticket is only $50 and will allow you to see all 10 games in person.  For the rest of us, the games (other than the gold medal game) are streaming for free on FastHockey.  The gold medal game will be broadcast on TSN/RDS.  And, of course, I’ll be live tweeting as many of the games as possible on @SledgeNews!

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