TORONTO – No gold, this time. But not much hand wringing, either.
Bent on successfully defending their World Sledge Hockey Challenge title won a year ago, Team USA had to settle for silver after falling to Team Canada, 3-1, in the WSHC championship game staged at The MasterCard Centre Saturday night.
“While we would have liked to get the 'W'”, said Team USA goaltender Steve Cash, “and get the Gold Medal, “we're just going to take things in stride. Sochi is the ultimate goal.”
The World Challenge was the team's first live competition since selection camp was held in July.
The result, Cash said, should be through the prism of a bigger picture, namely the 2014 Paralympics.
“We're not going to look too far and think this is a precursor to how things are going to look in Sochi,” said Cash. “We've got what it takes in the locker room, and I have the utmost confidence in all 17 of these guys. When the time comes, we'll be able to step it up and execute.”
Team USA entered the game missing two offensive stalwarts – forwards Rico Roman and Josh Sweeney – both of whom were attending their wives college graduations.
That firepower was missed as the US fell behind – falling behind 3-0 in the first period – and never fully recovered.
“We were that far away from making good plays,” said USA coach Jeff Sauer. “We were missing the puck. Not making shots when we had to. A little bit slow on the release of the puck to the net. But it all comes with confidence.
Canada grabbed the lead on Adam Dixon's goal at 9:03, then surged to a three goal lead on goals 33 seconds apart by Billy Bridges and Greg Westlake.
Dixon's goal came on a 40-foot right hand shot that hit off a defenseman found space under the cross bar.
“It was a point shot that was going to the back door,” said Cash. “Unfortunately it was tipped. I was going to make the save and it went underneath my arm pit. That's how it goes sometimes.”
Bridges' tally came from just off the right circle while Westlake, Canada's team captain, connected off a rush down left wing.
Team USA mustered just a half dozen shots in that period, and just one dangerous scoring chance, that in the final minute of the period from Josh Pauls on a centering pass from Nikko Landeros. Pauls, however, was thwarted by Canadian goalie Corbin Watson.
“We're not used to playing from behind,” said Sauer. “But the big thing is that there are not a lot of goals scored, either way. When you get down by two or three goals, it's tough to get back in it.”
Cash said there was no sense of panic felt in the dressing room during intermission.
“It was just a matter of keeping our heads up,” he said. “Knowing we were still in the game. The funny thing about hockey is that you're never really out of the game, unlesss it's 7-0 in the third period.”
The US managed to regroup in the second period, held Canada to just three shots (while recording six of their own) and crept back to within 3-1 on Pauls' unassisted tally at 5:51.
Pauls was in a tangle of players in front of the Canada goal, and was able to pop the puck in past Watson.
That, however was as good as it got.
The US was held to just one shot in the third period and was never able to mount a serious comeback.
March 27, 2017 | When USA Hockey implemented its American Development Model in 2009, one element of the nationwide age-appropriate training blueprint sparked more debate than any other: cross-ice hockey for 8U players. In the years since, an abundance of evidence, both data-driven and anecdotal, has proven the developmental advantages of cross-ice hockey.
This week, Hockey Canada announced that it too will introduce its players to the game through cross-ice play beginning in 2017-18.
“Re-sizing the playing surface to cross-ice or half-ice means more puck touches, which result in more chances to practice puck control and shooting, as well as overall more movement and motor skill-development – twisting, turning, balance, coordination, agility,” said Paul Carson, vice-president of membership development for Hockey Canada, in a release today. “Their field-of-play matches their size, and these players hone in on their skill-development in a way that larger ice surfaces just aren’t conducive to.”
The Grassroots Show on Ottawa’s TSN 1200 weighed in on the decision. Click the audio link below to hear how Canada is embracing cross-ice hockey for the coming season and beyond.
Tom Renney, president and CEO of Hockey Canada, appeared on the Grassroots Show to discuss the nationwide shift to cross-ice hockey, beginning this fall for 5- and 6-year-olds and expanding to all of Canada's Novice (8U) level in 2018-19.
“When you see 10 or 12 or 14 or 16 kids out on the ice in between periods and they’re playing 200-by-85 and 3 or 4 kids touch the puck in that whole six minutes, yet there’s people in the stands clapping and thinking it’s wonderful, I just can’t help but think about the 95 percent of the children that didn’t even touch the puck or get from one end of the rink to the other and I ask myself what are we doing when the opportunity is certainly there to have 30 kids on the ice playing cross-ice and everyone is having a much better opportunity to touch the puck, skate a shorter distance and really play. It just boggles my mind,” said Renney.
“We completely embrace, at the Initiation level and the Novice level, cross-ice hockey and we have mandated that in the Initiation program and we will mandate it across the country in Novice hockey.
“This is about the pure enjoyment of the game, and your first connection with it has to be something that’s pure fun, on a surface of play that is conducive to much more participation and joy.”