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USA opens IPC Sledge Hockey World Championship with win over Russia

 

The undefeated streak continues for Team USA.

The Americans opened the 2015 IPC Sledge Hockey World Championships with a 6-1 win over Russia at HarborCenter Sunday night.

Brody Roybal opened the scoring with 7:58 left in the third and the U.S. built a 3-0 lead by the midway point of the second. Captain Josh Sweeney scored on a breakaway while Declan Farmer put in loose puck on the power play.

Ilia Volkov fired a shot past U.S. goalie Steve Cash with 2:06 left in the second to put the Russians on the board.

With 8:30 left in regulation, Josh Pauls scored a power play goal (confirmed after a video review) to give the U.S. back it's three-goal cushion. With 1:59 left Sweeney added a second goal then Joshua Misiewicz scored shorthanded, thanks to hard skating and a good feed from Adam Page, to close out the win.

Standing on his head: Steve Cash lost his bid for a shutout late in the second period, but the U.S. goaltender played a stellar game. He stopped a pair of breakaways in the first period and made a huge glove save in the second. Twice he made an athletic, sprawling-across-the-goal-crease save, anticipating the play and denying the Russian forward.

Canadian dominance: Greg Westlake led the offense with five goals as Canada dominated Japan, 17-0. Brad Bowden and Billy Bridges each had a hat trick. There were nine different goal scorers for Canada. Also notching goals – Kevin Sorley, Tyler McGregor, Marc Dorion, Adam Dixon, Bryan Scholomicki and Ben Delaney.

“It’s not something that we love to do, run up the score like that, but we train so hard all year and sledge hockey’s at the point now where, especially in Canada, we’re elite-level athletes,” said Westlake, the team captain. “We train full time and you get here and you’re so excited to play in the World Championship, you’re excited to put on the jersey for your country.”

The expectations of Canada: Despite taking bronze in their last two international tournaments, including the 2014 Sochi Paralympics, Canada is ranked No. 1 in sledge hockey. That’s because world rankings are based off the last IPC World Championships, which were 2013 when Canada won gold. But put rankings and past performances aside.

“We’re playing hockey and it’s Canada so we always have something to prove,” Westlake said. “I’ve been on the team now 10-plus years and every single tournament, we could be ranked No. 6 and people are treating us like the favorites. We’re kinda used to that mentality. … I honestly don’t even look at rankings. We won a gold medal in the 2006 Athens Paralympics and we were ranked fourth going into that tournament. We were ranked first going into Vancouver 2010, we came in fourth. I’ve been the underdog and won. I’ve been the favorite and lost. Hopefully this week we’ll get it done.”

Media blitz: It’s the most wonderful time of the year for hockey fans with the Stanley Cup playoffs underway. Westlake hopes there’s an opportunity for sledge hockey to get some mainstream media time during playoff coverage.

“I really think it’s a good opportunity during the playoffs,” Westlake said. “Everyone’s watching hockey and whether it’s Canada or any of the other countries, get the highlights up there. If there’s a great goal, a big hit, let’s get it some mainstream media exposure.”

The captain, who lives in Toronto, noted that the U.S. has done a better job than Canada in promoting the sport, beginning with coverage of Sochi and including this World Championships which features media deal with NBC broadcasting games across a variety of the network’s platforms.

“The thing about Sochi is the coverage was great in the USA and again this tournament, NBC, they’re being a leader,” Westlake said. “The U.S. is proving right now … why they’re a great host country for a tournament. Canada, we gotta up it now ourselves whether it’s CBC, TSN, Rogers SportsNet, we need to up that for us. I think if you put it on, people will watch. If you build it, they will come so to speak. I really think we’ve got to take that next step.”

Opening game: Norway opened the tournament with a 3-1 win over the Czech Republic. It was an early lead for the Czech as Michal Geier scored shorthanded at 7:48 of the first, but Norway rallied with three third-period goals from Rolf Einar Pedersen, Jan Roger Klakegg (shorthanded) and Loyd-Remi Pallander Solberg.

Victory, Italy: In a brutally physical game, Italy held on for a 1-0 win over Germany. Andrew Macri got the only goal with 1:04 left in the first period. Italy held a 12-9 advantage in shots on goal. And yes those are game totals. Hard to shoot when you keep getting knocked off your sled.

Ticket info: Tickets are available for all rounds, including the medal games. Preliminary round tickets are $5, semifinals $10, bronze medal game $10 and the gold medal game $20. Tickets are available at the door and through tickets.com.

Up next: The preliminary rounds continue Monday with the U.S. playing Germany at 8 p.m. The day opens with the Czech Republic vs. Japan, 9:30 a.m. followed by Canada vs. Norway at 1 p.m. and Russia vs. Italy at 4:30 p.m.

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