ASAHIKAWA, JAPAN – Canada’s National Sledge Team has won gold at the Japan Paralympic 2008 Ice Sledge Hockey International Match after a 3-2 win over Norway in Saturday’s championship game. Canada has now won gold at the last three major international competitions (2006 Paralympic Winter Games, 2007 World Sledge Hockey Challenge), all with wins over Norway in the gold medal game.
Billy Bridges (Summerside, PE) led the way with a goal and two assists for Canada, giving him a team-leading 11 points (four goals, seven assists), while Greg Westlake (Oakville, ON) scored twice – his team-leading fifth and sixth goals – including the game winner late in the second period. The third member of Canada’s top line, Bradley Bowden (Orton, ON), was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
Canadian goaltender Paul Rosen (Thornhill, ON) saved his best for the gold medal game, making 16 saves, including six in the first period when Canada was outshot 7-3 by the Norwegians, and a number of big saves in the dying minutes when the Scandinavians were pressing for the tying goal.
The round robin portion of the tournament for Canada included wins over Norway (5-3), the USA (3-2) and host Japan (2-0). The USA took the bronze in Saturday’s third-place game, needing overtime to score a 3-2 win over the Japanese.
The road to the 2008 IPC Sledge Hockey World Championship in Marlborough, MA has one more stop for Canada – a three-game series vs. the USA in Prince George, BC in late February. The Canadians swept the Americans in a three-game series in Park City, UT in November.
The 2008 IPC Sledge Hockey World Championship runs from March 29th to April 5th. Canada will be looking to improve on its fourth-place finish from the 2004 world championship in Ornskoldsvik, Sweden.