World Sledge Hockey championship: Team Canada golden at last

Trail’s Mike Mondin leads Canada’s sledge hockey team to victory over the U.S.

Team Canada defeated its long time nemesis the United States in the gold-medal game of the IPC World Sledge Hockey championship in Goyang, South Korea Saturday.

In what many predicted to be a tough defensive battle, turned out to be just that, as Graeme Murray netted the only goal of the game for Team Canada in the 1-0 victory.

“Playing the USA in the final was fitting with the rivalry that exist between the two teams,” said Team Canada coach and Trail native Mike Mondin in an email to the Times Sunday. “As with any of our games when we play the U.S., the games are close and intense. Both teams bring the best out of each other.”

Murray scored just 2:07 into the second period off a pass from teammate Anthony Gale, but other than that little offence was generated by the Americans with much of the game played in the middle of the ice, in a physical battle for puck possession.

Canada outshot the USA in the game 15-5, with Billy Bridges and captain Adam Westlake each having four shots on the net. Forward Josh Pauls led the Americans with two shots on goal.

Canada won world championship gold in 2000 and 2008 and the U.S. has taken gold in 2009 and 2012, and at the 2010 Paralympics. Canada, the 2006 Paralympic gold medallists, earned bronze at the 2009 worlds and again last year after they lost 2-1 in a shootout to the Americans in a semifinal.

It was the third World championship for Team Canada, but the first for Mondin as head coach.

“Our team’s gold medal performance at this years IPC World Championship was a ‘fight to the finish’ attitude throughout the tournament,” said the J. L. Crowe instructor. “We were prepared physically, mentally, and were injury free allowing us a recipe for success. Each player understood and fulfilled their role in each of our five games.

“We are extremely proud of the player’s performances and our team becoming world champions.”

The team was stingy defensively throughout the tournament, outscoring opponents 20-3, and going undefeated with committed and aggressive play.

The Canadians beat the Czech Republic 5-0 in the semifinal game, while the U.S. defeated Russia 2-1 in the other semifinal with both teams going through the round robin undefeated.

Westlake was named top forward in the tournament scoring five goals and three assists for the Canadians.

“Today we finally had the right game at the right time,” Westlake told an IPC reporter after the game. “The U.S. is a good team now and our series through the year is 3-3; any given day either team can win. I was just very happy it was us tonight.”

In the bronze-medal game, Russia toppled the Czech Republic 3-0 to make the podium at their first World Championships A-Pool, just five months after winning last year’s B-Pool event in Novi Sad, Serbia.

The victory also qualified Canada for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. As World Champions, the Canadians will also be the top seed at the Games.