VANCOUVER – Canada hoped for triple gold in hockey in Vancouver and the hosts did well by winning both the men’s and women’s hockey tournaments after exciting gold medal games against the United States. But this time, at the ice sledge hockey tournament of the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, Team USA captured the gold.
Just like the Olympics, Vancouver turned out to be a great place for the Paralympics with good crowds and record TV ratings. The Paralympics are staged every two years following the Summer and Winter Olympics. Five sports were on the winter program this year and, of course, the focus in the motherland of hockey was on sledge hockey that was played at UBC Thunderbird Arena.
Eight nations took part in the sledge hockey tournament following last year’s world championship and the qualifier with players from 18-53 years of age.
Sledge hockey, together with standing amputee hockey, is a variant of ice hockey that allows players with a lower-body disability to play hockey on ice. They play with a metal sled on blades and two sticks to help them move and handle the puck. The sport, created in the ‘60s, is played in three periods of 15 minutes each and has become a popular winter sport in the Paralympic Games after its premiere in Lillehammer 1994. The game follows IIHF rules with a few modifications.
After Team USA had won world championship gold last year
for the first time, the Americans were also successful on Canadian soil winning their second Paralympic gold after Salt Lake City 2002.
Team USA did not allow a single goal the entire tournament, outscoring its opponents 19-0 in five games.
They beat Korea (5-0), the Czech Republic (3-0) and Japan (6-0) in the preliminary round and defeated Norway, 3-0, in the semi-finals.
The fans were ready for another North American clash in the final as Canada also easily won the other group with three victories and 19-1 goals, but their plans were upset by the Japanese.
Canada outshot Japan 20-11 and Marc Dorion scored the lead after ten minutes, but captain Takayuki Endo equalized in the middle period and Daisuke Uehara netted the game-winning goal with 73 seconds left. Endo sealed the 3-1 win with his second goal into an empty net.
It’s the first time Japan made it to the gold medal game in the Paralympics. And the Asians were ready to upset another favourite.
Members of the U.S. ice hockey team including Chris Drury, Jamie Langenbrunner, head coach Ron Wilson and general manager Brian Burke sent e-mails to support the U.S. sledge hockey team.
It was well-needed support. Although the Americans outshot Japan 16-5, the game remained open until the end. Alexi Salamone scored the first goal on a rebound at 4:10 in front of 5,810 spectators.
Endo had the chance to tie it up with his penalty shot at 16:40, but Team USA goalie denied the attempt with a glove same to remain undefeated also in his fifth game, having faced 33 shots in the whole tournament.
It was Taylor Lipsett who sealed the win with the 2-0 power play goal 78 seconds before the final buzzer.
“I could not be more proud of our players,” said U.S. head coach Ray Maluta. “These guys have given us so much over the last few years to get to this point. They’ve grown as athletes, players and men, and I’m lucky to have been a part of this ride.”Final Ranking:
1. United States
5. Czech Republic